City Board of Appeals
This board meets as required.
- Andrew Brown - Term Expires February 2021
- Gary Horvath - Term Expires October 2023
- Jeanette Leonard - Term Expires October 2022
- Eric Amundsen - Term Expires October 2021
- Kellen Wells-Mangold - Term Expires October 2023
- First Alternate - Vacant
- Second Alternate - Vacant
Appointing authority lies with the mayor, subject to confirmation by the City Council. Members are elected to three-year terms.
- Compensation: Per Resolution Number 3041, Dated August 22, 1997
- Legal Basis: WI Stats.62.23(7) - Municipal Code Section 17.104.030
The duties of this board are to hear and decide appeals and variances per code requirements.
What is a variance?
A variance is a special exception to a specific rule in the City's zoning ordinance that can only be approved if a property has unique characteristics that cause hardship. Wisconsin State Statute §62.23(7)(e) requires all cities with a zoning ordinance to have a Zoning Board of Appeals to review variance requests. City staff cannot approve a variance but can assist you in applying for one. After a complete application is received along with the application fee, the Board meets to review and vote on variance requests.
Should I apply for a variance?
State law requires a variance to pass three tests to be approved:
- The variance is needed because of an unnecessary hardship caused by zoning
- There is a unique property feature present that created the hardship
- The variance is not contrary to public interest
If you are unsure if your property meets all three tests, staff can answer questions or provide feedback about your situation before you submit the application and fee. Staff cannot speak on behalf of how the Board will vote on the request. Please consider the following if you are unsure if your property will meet the three tests:
- The variance can’t be motivated by a desire to increase the value of the property.
- The property itself must qualify for a variance because of its unique features, not the property owner’s personal circumstances.
- If approved, the variance must not negatively impact surrounding properties or the community.
- Existing zoning rules must make the property reasonably unusable for the variance to be approved according to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. For example, if a homeowner requests a variance related to a deck and is denied, they can still reasonably use the home without the deck. Alternatively, a site with a unique slope or natural feature making it difficult for a home to be built without encroaching into a setback may qualify for an approved variance if it meets the three tests.
- A hardship must be caused by the zoning ordinance and may not be present in the absence of the zoning ordinance. For example, a property that is entirely steep slopes with no area suitable to build a home likely wouldn’t qualify for a variance, since it would be difficult to build on even before considering what the zoning requires.
- A hardship can’t be self-imposed. For example, building a home without leaving enough space for a deck, and then later requesting a variance for a deck within the setback would be a self-imposed hardship.
- The Board of Appeals does not have the authority to approve a variance for a hardship that affects multiple similar properties the same way. Rather, the City should evaluate whether a zoning amendment should be pursued with Plan Commission and City Council.
- A variance cannot be requested to correct an existing violation, for example, building a structure within a setback without a permit, and then applying for a variance to correct the situation.
- An approved variance must meet the intent of the zoning requirement the applicant is being granted relief from.
- Only the minimum relief necessary for a property owner to reasonably use the site may be granted, and the Board can make a variance subject to mitigation (for example, extra stormwater controls or required vegetation for a property receiving a shoreland zoning variance).
What is the variance review process?
The Board will meet to review the request, and anyone wishing to speak about the request may do so during the public hearing at the meeting. The Board’s decision must occur within 14 days of the public hearing, but typically it occurs during the same meeting. The Board’s vote must be impartial, based on facts and evidence rather than preferences or speculation, similar to how a court operates. Regardless of the decision, the applicant will receive a written, signed summary of the decision and the rationale supporting it.
A decision may be appealed at Circuit Court within 30 days by the applicant or another individual. This is important to consider, as a Circuit Court could reverse an approved variance within that time frame, so the applicant with an approved variance assumes that risk if construction starts before the 30 day window is over.
For more details on the variance process, please contact City staff or read the Wisconsin Zoning Board Handbook.