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City of Modesto :: Development Center :: Variance

Variance Information

Dept/Div. Contact:  Planning Division - (209) 577-5267

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Description:  Most new construction in Modesto is expected to comply with the regulations in the Zoning Code (i.e., setbacks from property lines, height limits, parking requirements, etc.). However, there are some instances where compliance with the development regulations creates a hardship for the property owner due to unusual characteristics of the parcel involved. A variance may be requested to deviate from Zoning Code requirements.

Examples: The property is unique compared to typical parcels due to its unusual size, shape, topography, location, surroundings, or other physical characteristics.


Submit Preliminary Proposal

This submittal is an optional courtesy review by Planning staff, which provides applicants with preliminary feedback on variance proposals prior to submitting a full application.  It does not include review by other departments or divisions.

Where to submit:

Planning Division
1010 Tenth Street, 3rd Floor [Directions]
(209) 577-5267

What to bring:

Information/Forms: (#VARP)


Submit an Application

Once the preliminary proposal has been reviewed and approved, an application will need to be submitted. Most projects will take 11-12 weeks to process. Some projects may take longer than others depending on environmental impacts and other conditions.

Where to submit:

Planning Division
1010 Tenth Street, 3rd Floor [Directions]
(209) 577-5267

What to bring:

Additional Requirements

Depending upon the type of use proposed, State law may required an analysis of the project's environmental effects. A separate application for environmental review may be necessary.

Information/Forms: (#VARA)


Project Review

All application packets must be received by a Planner to determine if all submittal criteria have been met. A Project Planner will be assigned to process the application and will review the application with staff members from other departments for their input.

Staff Report

When the Project Planner review period has ended and the identified issues have been resolved, the application is scheduled for a public hearing before the Board of Zoning Adjustment. A staff report is written, and a copy is mailed to the applicant. The staff report includes staff's recommendation and conditions to be applied to the project, if applicable.

Public Notification

Public Hearing notices are sent to all property owners within 300 feet of the property 20 days prior to the Board of Zoning Adjustment hearing.

Public Hearing

Board of Zoning Adjustment
At the Board of Zoning Adjustment meeting, staff provides an oral report on the proposal and the staff recommendation. The applicant is then given an opportunity to address the Board of Zoning Adjustment and members of the public are asked for input. The Board of Zoning Adjustment then makes its decision for approval or denial based on the ability to make the following findings:

  1. There are special circumstances or conditions applicable to the property or building in question which do not exist for other properties or buildings in the same zone and immediate vicinity.
  2. The special circumstances or conditions are such that strict application of the provisions of this Chapter (MMC, Section 10-2.2502) would deprive the applicant of practical use of the property or buildings.
  3. Granting of the variance will be consistent with the intent and purpose of this Chapter and will not be detrimental to the neighborhood or public welfare.


During a 15-day period after the public hearing, the applicant or members of the public may appeal the Board's decision to the City Council by filing a letter of appeal with the City Clerk's Office (fee). Denials by the City Council cannot be appealed.


Post-Application Information

Subsequent to project approval there may be additional processes required before a project can be constructed, such as obtaining a building permit; additional fees may be incurred.


Related Forms & Handouts (#VAR)

These documents are provided in PDF Format. You must have a PDF viewer in order to open these documents. Click here for the free Adobe Acrobat viewer

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Have Questions?

Contact our Planning Division at (209) 577-5267.

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