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Administrative variances can be granted for certain requests that involve fences and walls located either in a front yard or in the public right-of-way and for guardrails located in a front yard. They differ from regular variances only in the manner in which they are processed. Rather than the Town Council deciding on the request following a public hearing, the Mayor and Town Manager decide whether to grant an administrative variance. A variance can only be approved administratively if no objection to the approval of the variance is filed with the Town during a 15 day public comment period. If an objection to the approval of the variance is filed, the variance is required to be considered at a public hearing following the traditional variance process listed above. Administrative variances can be granted only for the following items: • New or relocated front yard retaining walls thirty (30) inches or greater in height, provided they are set back at least two (2) feet from the nearest public sidewalk in the public right-of-way or, if there is no sidewalk, at least six (6) feet from the curb; • New front yard fences measuring four (4) feet or less in height, having a fenestration of at least thirty (30) percent, not constructed of chain link, and on a corner lot abutting any street or on an interior lot abutting East-West Highway, Connecticut Avenue, or Bradley Lane; • Walls in a front yard or in a public right-of-way that replace an existing wall provided the replacement wall does not materially alter the location or increase the height or length of the wall; • Fences in a front yard that replace an existing fence, but are ineligible for replacement due to a decrease in fenestration, provided the replacement fence does not materially alter the location or increase the height or length of the fence and the replacement fence has a fenestration of at least thirty (30) percent; and fences in a public right-of-way, provided the replacement fence does not materially alter the location or increase the height or length of the fence and the replacement fence has a fenestration of at least thirty (30) percent.• New or relocated retaining walls less than thirty (30) inches in height in a public right-of-way, provided they are set back at least two (2) feet from the nearest public sidewalk in the public right-of-way or, if there is no sidewalk, at least six (6) feet from the curb; • New, relocated, or replacement guardrails, provided the guardrail is set back at least two (2) inches from the retaining wall and located along only portions of the retaining wall measuring thirty (30) inches or more in height; • New or relocated steps, stoops, outside stairways, and their roofing; decks, terraces, porches, and their roofing; chimneys, air conditioners, and heat pumps; and/or oriel entrances, vestibules, and balconies, in a front and/or rear yard; • New or relocated bay windows in a front and/or rear yard, provided they are no more than one (1) story in height and ten (10) feet or less in width; • Additional width of six (6) feet or less for a driveway, other than a shared driveway, in a front yard and/or in a public-right-of-way; • Extension of an existing wall plane (length); or • Replacement of a structure or portion thereof, provided the location is not changed and no dimension is enlarged. You must submit the same documents to apply for an administrative variance as for a regular variance.
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If your property meets the “physical characteristics” test, the requested deviation from the building code may only be granted if the following conditions are met:
• The variance is reasonably necessary to grant relief from the property’s conditions.• The proposed variation is the minimum needed to overcome the extraordinary conditions of the property. • Granting the variance will not have a detrimental impact on your neighbors’ use and enjoyment of their properties.• Granting the variance will not impair public health, safety and welfare, or the integrity of any approved general or master plan of the Town.
Please note that there are slightly different standards for granting a variance that involves the public right-of-way. See the Town Code for details or ask Town staff.
The applicant generally is notified of the Town Council’s decision about the variance at the hearing; however, the variance is not officially approved or denied until a written decision is approved by the Council (usually several weeks after the hearing). If the variance is granted, it may include whatever conditions the Town Council believes are needed to protect the public interest.