Mason City is currently drafting a new zoning ordinance. We are examining the role of the Zoning Board of Adjustment and the types of cases they might consider, beyond those identified in Iowa Code 414. We've looked at other ordinances in the state and have seen various examples of how the ZBA operates. Currently our ordinance only allows the Board to issue a variance that (theoretically) must meet the public interest and hardship tests. We are looking for ways to introduce flexibilities into the review process at the staff or the Board level. The attorney working with our consultant took us to task for our administrative exceptions process; he believes it is a back door variance. I am forwarding the question below from Pam Myhre, Growth Development and Planning Directory, Mason City, Iowa. Any feedback is greatly appreciated.
The City of Mason City would like to hear from Iowa cities that distinquish between applications for variances and special exceptions in their zoning ordinance and the requirements for each. As example, Dubuque's zoning ordinance allows residential property owners (only) to seek a special exception to vary bulk standards which do not, then, need to meet the strict hardship test required of a variance. The ZBA hears both variance and special exception cases. In addition, under certain circumstances, staff can issue a Limited Setback Waiver for up to 33.3% of the required setback.
In Mason City, only variance applications to the ZBA are currently allowed to vary bulk standards, but staff can issue, under certain circumstances, an administrative exception to vary certain setbacks and bulk standards.
Please send those sections of your code or comments, that might be helpful to us as we re-write Mason City's zoning ordinance.
Thank you in advance.
Growth Development & Planning Director
City of Mason City
10 First Street N.W.
Mason City, Iowa 50401
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