The Zoning Board of Appeals is a seven member body appointed by the Mayor and City Council. The Board’s purpose is to hear appeals from the Zoning Ordinance on matters where the applicant experiences a hardship when following the specific requirements of the ordinance.

Five members of the Board must be present to constitute a quorum. The Board meets regularly on the second Thursday of each month at 4:00 P.M. in the City Council Chambers of the Decatur Civic Center.

Four affirmative votes are required to decide in favor of granting a variance. All decisions of the Board are considered final.


The Zoning Board of Appeals is granted certain powers by the City of Decatur Zoning Ordinance. The Board is charged with interpreting decisions of the Building Inspector where there is an alleged error in determining requirements, to interpret and clarify the location of zoning district boundary lines, reviewing the establishment of parking lots in residential areas, classifying uses of land not specified in the Zoning Ordinance, reviewing applications for accessory buildings larger than the main structure on the same lot, and varying lot size, setback, height or bulk limitations.

The Board also considers the establishment of garages or other accessory structures that exceed 750 square feet or the square footage of the footprint area of the main building, whichever is greater. This may apply to one or more accessory buildings on the same lot.

Petitioning the Board

Presenting a Petition for Variance requires the submittal of a petition form and site plan showing the proposed variance on the subject site. A $150.00 filing fee is required for properties in the AG, R-1, R-2, R-3 and R-5 zoning districts; in all other districts the fee is $250.00. An example petition and site plan is available HERE. The petition should be clear and complete, should explain the reasons for variation, and requires the legal description of the subject property and a complete site plan. The petition, once completed, should be filed with the Planning and Development Division, Community Development Department, Third Floor, Decatur Civic Center. The deadline for filing petitions is the first Thursday of the preceding month.

Petition Review Standards

The City staff and the Zoning Board of Appeals shall evaluate each request based on the following standards:

The applicant must show evidence that:

  • Strict application of the zoning requirements will lead to unnecessary, non-economic hardship or practical difficulty, which prevent the property from been used in a reasonable manner;
  • The plight of the owner is due to unique circumstances not of his/her own making; and
  • The variance, if granted, will not alter the essential character of the locality.

A variance shall be granted only if the Board finds that all three conditions have been satisfied. In making its decision, the Board must note that the evidence shows that the proposed variance:

  • Will not impair an adequate supply of light and air to adjacent properties;
  • Will not unreasonably diminish the values of adjacent property;
  • Will not unreasonably increase congestion in the public streets or otherwise endanger public safety;
  • Is in harmony with the intent of the zoning district in which it is located and is in harmony with the general purpose and intent of this Ordnance.

The Zoning Board of Appeals may not grant a variance to the list of permitted or conditional uses allowed in any zoning district.

The Planning and Development Division, upon receiving a valid petition, will complete a summary review and follow the required notification procedures. A legal notice will be prepared and published in a local newspaper at least 15 days prior to the meeting and a sign indicating a request for zoning action will be placed on the property. A staff report will also be prepared for review by the Board. All petitioners receive a copy of this report along with a copy of the meeting agenda approximately one week prior to the meeting.

Public Hearing

All meetings of the Zoning Board of Appeals are public hearings and conducted accordingly. A notice of hearing is published locally and the meeting is open to all interested members of the public. The Chairman of the Board will call the roll, determine if a quorum is present and begin the meeting. The Board will call the subject petition; staff will report its findings and members of the Board will ask the petitioner questions related to the proposed project and the reason(s) for exception to the requirements. A time is open for public comments, both in favor of and against, regarding the proposed variation. The Board will then vote on the proposed petition. The Board’s decision will be known at the time of the meeting. Failure of the petitioner or his/her representative to attend the meeting and be available to answer questions may result in the petition being tabled until the next regular meeting.