What is the difference between a special permit and a variance?

A Special Permit is required generally if your lot or structure is non-conforming and you wish to make an alteration or extension to it. The Board of Appeals approval or special exceptions shall not be granted unless the applicant demonstrates "that such change, extension or alteration shall not be substantially more detrimental than the existing nonconforming use to the neighborhood" plus additional criteria. 

Refer to MGL Chapter 40A Section 6 (Existing structures, uses, or permits) & Section 9 (Special Permits), and Medfield Zoning Bylaw Article 300-9 (Nonconforming Uses, Structures and Lots) & Article 300-14.10 (Special Permits by the ZBA). 

A Variance is required if you want to do something with your property which is generally prohibited by the Zoning Bylaw. The applicant must show a hardship imposed by the Bylaw which is caused by a unique condition of the lot, or structure, and the hardship is owing to circumstances relating to the soil conditions, shape or topography of the land or structure and especially affecting the land or structures, but not affecting generally the zoning district in which it is located. Relief may be granted without substantial detriment to the public good, and without nullifying or substantially derogating from the intent or purpose of such ordinance or bylaw. The criteria for a Variance is very strict, you might want to look at all of your options before applying. It is also recommended that one seeks legal counsel when considering applying for a variance as the requirements are a matter of law.

Refer to MGL Chapter 40A Section 10 (Variances) and Medfield Zoning Bylaw Article 300-14.11 (Variances).

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1. What is my zoning district?
2. How do I know what laws apply to my project?
3. What if I want to construct a new home, addition, or new business?
4. What is Zoning?
5. What is the difference between the Zoning Code and the Building Code?
6. What if my proposed structure or use is not allowed by the Zoning Bylaws?
7. What are zoning nonconformities?
8. Can zoning nonconformities legally continue to exist?
9. Can zoning nonconformities be enlarged?
10. When can zoning nonconformities be replaced as they currently exist?
11. When must zoning nonconformities be replaced to conform with current zoning requirements?
12. Why did I receive a hearing notice?
13. What should I expect at the public hearing?
14. What are the zoning requirements regarding sheds?
15. What is a Zoning Freeze?
16. What are the ZBA's public hearing protocols?
17. How to appeal a ZBA Decision?
18. What is the difference between a special permit and a variance?
19. Medfield Zoning Info for Homeowners and Realtors
20. We want a pool; what should we be aware of?