Zoning Board of Adjustment

The Zoning Board of Adjustment is a five member board appointed by the City Council to grant relief from literal enforcement of the zoning ordinance in certain hardship situations and to hear appeals on the Building Official's decisions regarding city ordinances.

Step 1 - Application

When citizens desire to build a structure, they must submit plans to the Department of Inspection Services at Dr. Mae Jackson Development Center located at 401 Franklin Avenue or submit plans on line. At that point the Building Official will review the plans to see if they conform to the Building and Zoning Code standards, which the city has adopted. If strict enforcement of the ordinance creates a hardship for the applicant, the applicant is referred to the Department of Planning Services to seek relief through the Zoning Board of Adjustment in one or more of the following categories:


If the applicant for the building permit cannot conform his plan to the Zoning Code, which regulates land use, yard setbacks, height limits, lot sizes, etc., then he may be able to apply for a variance to the standard. In order to grant a variance from an ordinance requirement, the Board must find that a hardship condition exists which is unique, necessary, not only a financial hardship, and was not created by the owner.

Hardship conditions inherent to the property may include such conditions as irregular lot shape, steep topography, location of existing creeks and trees, placement of existing buildings, or other unusual circumstances, which make code compliance impractical. For example, if a variance would permit a structure to encroach into the zoning setback in order to avoid cutting down a mature tree, it might be granted on the basis that both the property and the community as a whole would benefit from the preservation of the tree.  Example: If the property owner wants to build a larger house than the zoning setbacks on a lot accommodate, the hardship may be considered self-induced and not an appropriate basis for a variance.

Nonconforming Uses

State law guarantees each property owner a reasonable use of his property. This is not however, an unlimited right to develop, but must be consistent with the local governments' Land Use Plan and Zoning Maps. The Land Use Plan sets the amounts and locations of residential, office, commercial, and industrial development. Zoning translates this Land Use Plan into specific classifications and delineates which specific uses that can occur in each zone. A nonconforming use is an activity of a business that was begun prior to the enactment or change of a zoning code or district that now prohibits this use. All of these nonconforming uses are destined for redevelopment someday that will conform to zoning, but in the meantime, the Zoning Board of Adjustment has the authority to make certain special provisions to allow for their useful life to run its optimum course. As a minimum, the Zoning Ordinance provides that a nonconforming use is allowed to continue in use in a limited capacity until its building is damaged or destroyed to an extent greater than 60% of its fair market value, or until the use is discontinued for two years. The use cannot be expanded unless permission is granted by the Zoning Board of Adjustment. The Board may require the discontinuation and amortization of a nonconforming use. For buildings occupied by nonconforming uses, the Board may permit up to 50% expansion of the building, as long as it does not prevent the long-term return of the building to a conforming use and provided that side yard requirements can be met. The Board may also permit a change in use to another nonconforming use, providing the proposed nonconforming use is less intrusive and more compatible to the zoning district.


The Zoning Board of Adjustment also hears and decides appeals where there is an alleged error made by the Building Official in any order, requirement, or decision of determination in the administration or enforcement of the ordinance.

Step 2 - Public Hearings

Prior to making a decision on an application, the Board must hold a public hearing. The Board normally meets once a month to hold its hearings. Schedules of filing deadlines and hearing dates are posted on the calendar. Notices of the public hearing are published in the local newspapers, and all property owners within 200 feet of the property proposed for change are notified by mail.

City staff gives a recommendation to the Board which can be reviewed 72 hours prior to the hearing date

At the public hearing, the Board will hear the testimony both for and against an appeal or request for variance and City staff will be present to answer any questions the board or public may have. After hearing all the testimony and evidence, the Board will close the public hearing, discuss the case and make its decision based on findings of fact.

Step 3 - Decisions & Appeals

The concurring votes of four members are necessary for the Board to approve any matter. The Zoning Board of Adjustment decision is final and does not require City Council approval. Anyone dissatisfied with a decision of the Zoning Board of Adjustment may appeal the action to a court of record (District Court) as prescribed by state law.

Additional Information

This information is being provided to increase your awareness of the role and function of the Waco Zoning Board of Adjustment. If you have questions, contact Planning Services to discuss your particular situation.
Planning Services
P.O. Box 2570
Waco, Texas 76702-2570
(254) 750-5650
(254) 750-1605 (fax)


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