Board Procedures

About the Board

The Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) is a 5-member board consisting of James City County (JCC) residents.

The BZA hears and considers requests for variances to the JCC Zoning Ordinance and appeals of the Zoning Administrator's decisions.


A variance is a relaxation to the terms or requirements of the Zoning Ordinance. Please note that variances cannot relax the lists of generally and specially permitted land uses. If you are interested in using a property in a way that is not generally permitted in that property's zoning district, you will have to look into applying for a special use permit or rezoning. A variance may be granted when conditions are unique to the property and not the result of the applicant's actions. The applicant must show a demonstrable hardship that unreasonably restricts the use of the property in a way that is not generally shared by other properties in the same zoning district and vicinity.

Appeals & Variance Procedure

Staff recommends that you schedule a pre-application meeting to review the application process and answer any questions you may have. Submit a completed application package, which includes the following:
  • A properly completed and signed application form.
  • A review fee. Contact the Planning Division at 757-253-6685 for a current fee schedule.
  • A written explanation of the variance request
  • A surveyed plat, which depicts the following items:
    • The exact location of the structure for which the variance is being requested in relation to buildings and roads.
    • All property lines.
Applications must be received at least 5 weeks before the BZA meeting. Meetings are usually held the first Thursday of the month.

Staff Review

Prior to the BZA meeting, staff will review your application by making a site inspection and verifying the information on your application for compliance with County codes and ordinances. Staff will consider the impact of the proposed variance on surrounding property. Staff will incorporate their findings into a report for the BZA. Staff may recommend that the BZA place conditions on your application regarding the location, character, or any other features of your proposal.

These conditions attempt to protect the public interest and lessen any potential impacts caused by your proposal. Staff will notify you in advance of the meeting of any recommended conditions. You will receive a copy of the staff report, including any recommended conditions, in advance of the BZA meeting.

Planning Division Role

The Planning Division will:
  • Post a sign on the property indicating that an application has been filed with the BZA for the property. This sign will be posted 2 weeks before the BZA public hearing.
  • Advertise the public hearing in a local newspaper both 2 weeks and 1 week before the BZA public hearing.
  • Send written notice to all adjacent property owners at least 1 week prior to the BZA public hearing. At the BZA meeting, staff will present your request to the BZA and give their recommendation, including any conditions. After staff's presentation, you or your representative will have an opportunity to speak. Then the BZA will hold a public hearing where any citizen can speak about the application. After the public hearing is closed, the BZA will discuss the application and make their determination. A favorable vote of 3 members of the board is always required to pass a motion.
If you are requesting a variance, the BZA will approve, deny, or defer your request. If the BZA does authorize a variance, it may place conditions on that approval. The BZA may condition any variance as it deems necessary to protect the public interest. These conditions may affect the location, character, or any other element of your proposal.

If you are appealing a decision of the Zoning Administrator, the BZA will either uphold or overrule the Zoning Administrator. After the meeting, Planning staff will notify you in writing of the BZA's decision, including any conditions placed on your application.


You have 30 days to appeal the decision to the Court.