Board of Zoning Appeals

Established under Article VIII, Section 2 of the City of Cuyahoga Falls Charter, the Board of Zoning Appeals is a seven member body appointed by the mayor and confirmed by council.

This board is tasked with hearing appeals from individuals requesting exceptions or variances for city ordinances related to land use and building requirements, or from individuals who are questioning the validity of orders made by city officials. Each appeal is heard and decided on its own merit.

Types of Variance

There are two types of variances the board may grant, each requiring different considerations.

Area Variance

Area variance is the most common as it does not involve a change of use or a use of land not permitted in the particular zoning district the property is located in. An area variance is normally granted on the basis of a practical difficulty.

Common examples of an area variance include:

  • An oversize residential garage for the size of the lot
  • Privacy fence height in excess of allowed
  • Location of a garage, house, or a building closer to the lot line than normally permitted, and
  • Construction of a single family dwelling on a prior recorded lot which is smaller than one currently required for new lot creation.

In applications for area variances, the practical difficulty is normally due to the size, shape or topography of the property; the location of existing structures or the desire to preserve a large tree or other desirable landscape feature.

The board, in the case of an area variance, is required to weigh the requested variance against the following criteria:

  • How substantial the variation is in relation to the requirement
  • The effect, if the variance is allowed, of the increased population density that is produced on available government facilities (fire, water, garbage, etc.)
  • Whether a substantial change will be produced in the character of the neighborhood or a substantial detriment to adjoining properties will be created
  • Whether the difficulty can be alleviated by some method, feasible for the applicant to pursue, other than by a variance
  • Whether in view of the manner in which the difficulty arose, and considering all of the above factors, the interests of justice will be served by allowing a variance.

Use Variance

The use variance is seldom granted. A use variance may be granted only when an applicant can demonstrate an unnecessary hardship so severe that it would require a use of the land not normally permitted to overcome the hardship.

Examples of use variances include:

  • Permitting churches in non-residential zoning districts (U.S. Supreme Court rulings dictate such permits in most cases)
  • A cellular communications tower in a rural location or on an extremely small parcel that could not be used for any other purpose, and
  • An appropriate adaptive re-use of a school or church in a residential district.

In cases of a use variance, the proof of unnecessary hardship is placed on the applicant and the following must be demonstrated:

  1. The land in question cannot yield a reasonable return if used only for a purpose allowed in the zone, or as a legal nonconforming use within that zone.
    • The mere fact that the individual owner may suffer financial hardship or the fact that another permitted use may allow the sale of the property for a better price, or permit a larger profit, does not justify the granting of a variance.
    • A showing by dollars and cents proof is required for showing a lack of reasonable return.
    • A showing of present loss is not adequate in establishing a lack of reasonable return. The applicant must demonstrate that the return for each and permitted use under the Ordinance.
  2. The plight of the owner is due to unique circumstances and not to general conditions in the neighborhood.
    • A unique circumstance results from sources beyond the control of the individual, must not be shared by others in similar circumstances, and cannot be self-inflicted or financial.
    • Unique circumstances relate only to the property, and exist when legal restrictions, contour of the land, shape of the lot, or other physical restrictions create unique circumstances not incurred by one’s neighbor.
  3. The use sought to be authorized by variance will not alter the essential character of the locality. Any use that would alter or disrupt a neighborhood or district, when such district is in accordance with a comprehensive plan and adopted in the Zoning Regulations, should not be permitted.


The application for zoning variance must be completed and signed as per the Zoning Regulations of the City of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, Section 1171.04(a). Procedure guidelines are as follows:

  1. A complete list of the property owners located within 200' in all directions from subject property must be attached or included on the application.
  2. A money order or personal check must be submitted with the application made payable to the City of Cuyahoga Falls; the cost for a variance is $250.00.
  3. One folded scale drawing or site plan (for larger proposals) and a digital copy in PDF format must be submitted with one copy of the application as follows:
    • The scale drawings should include the lot size, side, rear and front dimensions including distances from the structures to the lot lines, all structure dimensions, distances from the main building to an accessory building, and the dimension of the proposed addition. Any other pertinent dimensions should be included.
    • A copy of the site plan requirements can be obtained from our office.
    • In the case of a use variance request, in addition to drawings, a detailed written description of proposed activity, operation, or configuration of uses must be included.
  4. The applicant and adjacent property owners within 200 feet will be mailed notification of the meeting date.
  5. Four weeks prior to the meeting day is the deadline for accepting applications.
  6. The Board meetings are scheduled for 6:00 p.m. and are conducted at the Natatorium Conference Center.
  7. It is necessary for the applicant or their representative to be present at the Board of Zoning Appeals meeting.
  8. The City will send notices to neighbors (within 200'), the respective Ward representative of City Council, and various City Departments.
  9. The owner and/or agent for the owner will be notified of the Board's decision.
  10. Property owner MUST make variance appeals.
  11. Building permits are usually necessary for a variance requiring construction.

The Board of Zoning Appeals Application may be found in the complaints and appeals section of permits, applications, and forms.

If you have any questions concerning these procedures, please contact community development at (330) 971-8135.