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What are easy hardships to prove in an area zoning variance.

East Troy, WI |

The zoning administrator is pressing an issue of hardship to prove me to prove hardship on an application for a zoning variance. The variance is for an area variance for a sign, that exceeds what is determined by the zoning administrator to be 8'. this is the text: Freestanding signs of any type shall not exceed 8 feet in height above mean street grade at the base of the sign..........two problems
1. the text could be defined as the base shall not be more than 8' above the road.
2. Zoning defines this as the sign shall not measure more than 8' in height above the mean street grade.
problem 1. who shall define the script of the height requirements?

Attorney Answers 2


The Building Inspector determines the interpretation of the zoning ordinance. The language could mean the height of the bottom of the sign, the middle of the sign, or the top of the sign. Very likely, the inspector is using the most restrictive interpretation, the top of the sign. If you don't like his interpretation, you can appeal to the ZBA for a area variance or an interpretation. The "hardship" would mean some kind of "practical difficulty" you would have with complying with the Building Inspector's interpretation, such as (in your instance), unless the sign was higher, it would not be as visible in a highway corridor with higher pre-existing signs, or visual clutter, or relatively high speed limits, or the particular location you need to place the sign in and it's setback from the road, etc. A photo rendering of your proposed sign placement and height and showing it would be consistent with the neighborhood and not a visual blight if a variance were granted would usually be helpful to your case.

In other words, the "hardship" is SOME GOOD, LOGICAL REASON, why you you cannot comply with the ordinance, other than you don't like the ordinance, don't feel like complying, or don't think the gubmint should interfere with your use of your land as you please.

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The Zoning in the village has been adopted as of 2011, the text prior to adopting was unchanged there are many signs that exceed the interpretation of 8'. Since there are others above that are non conforming, that were installed does this effect what is going on now?

Jack Richard Lebowitz

Jack Richard Lebowitz


The prior non conforming signs cannot be made to comply (unless the ordinance calls for a timed phase out, which is allowed only for signs, not buildings, or on their repair or replacement). But unless those higher signs make it totally impossible for your new sign to be seen, or you had a higher sign you are replacing, the more restrictive new rules apply to you. The fact that pre-existing signs are higher is no help to your arguments, in an of themselves. It would appear that the "too high" signs were the exact problem the ordinance or its revisions were targeted at.


The building inspector generally decides the interpretation of the zoning ordinance.

I see you are from East Troy. It may be worth a few minutes of your time to call a local attorney to see if they have some advice. Oftentimes, attorneys and zoning administrators know each other and it may be helpful for you to find a lawyer who can assist you and deal with the zoning issue. The lawyer will know how to present your claim in a light most favorable to you which is more likely to result in the variance.

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