Variance process

It is the responsibility of the Virginia-Highland Civic Association to review requests of neighborhood property owners for variances and special exceptions to the Zoning Code of the City of Atlanta, as well as applications for rezoning. The VHCA makes non-binding recommendations to the appropriate City of Atlanta organizations that then issue the final ruling.

Potential applicants may request a meeting with the VHCA Planning Committee prior to applying at the city’s Bureau of Buildings.  We will be glad to discuss variance perspectives and concerns that have arisen in the past, but every case is unique and recommendations can only be made on the basis of an actual application filed with the city.

When a variance is filed, applicants are given a calendar schedule listing the steps described below.  The paperwork trail leads from the city to the NPU to VHCA, and that can take some time, so much so that deferrals are sometimes required in spite of everyone’s best efforts.  We urge applicants to independently provide NPU-F and VHCA with electronic copies of all their variances materials and plans as soon as possible.  One’s chances of being heard as originally scheduled are greatly improved by such action, though no guarantees are possible.  Sometimes revisions are both desirable and inevitable, and that can lead to a deferral.

Step 1: VHCA Planning Committee site visit and recommendation
Once the application is in hand, the Committee will schedule a site visit to review the plan and its potential impacts and ask the applicants to notify their most adjacent neighbors of what is being proposed. Applicants then meet with the Neighborhood Planning Committee on the Wednesday before the second Monday of each month. These meetings are held at 7:00pm in the meeting room of the Ponce de Leon Library.  The Committee reviews the requests and may ask detailed questions suggest modifications or other steps, if needed.  It then makes a recommendation for action – usually approval or denial, though deferral is possible – to the VHCA Board of Directors.

Step 2: VHCA Board Review and Vote
Applicants then meet with the Board at their next scheduled meeting, typically held on the second Monday of the month at 7:00pm; check VHCA site (Menu item VHCA –> Events) for location. The board will hear a report from the Planning Committee, the Committee’s recommendation, and comments from association members in attendance.  It then makes a recommendation for action – usually approval or denial, though deferral is possible – to the NPU.

Step 3: NPU-F Review and Vote
Variances and special exceptions for Virginia-Highland go to NPU-F, which meets on the third Monday of each month at 7:00pm at the Hillside Inc., between Courtenay Drive and Monroe Drive.   Representatives from the VHCA Board report and advocate for the association’s vote and reasoning.  An open discussion follows among the NPU members in attendance, who will then vote to approve, deny, or defer.

That vote is reported to the city Board of Zoning Adjustment (for variances and Special Exceptions) or the Zoning Review Board (for rezoning cases.)

Step 4: City Variance or Zoning Recommendation
The BZA or ZRB then makes a recommendation to the Atlanta City Council.