Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Planning & Development

Matters before the Dane County Board of Adjustment

The Board of Adjustment hears petitions for variances as well as administrative appeals of Department decisions. This page provides information on these processes.

Two members of the Board of Adjustment looking at a proposed project under construction

Variances and Administrative Appeals

Board of Adjustment


A variance is an exception to the requirements of the zoning ordinance granted by the Board of Adjustment (BOA). Variances are generally limited to setbacks or other dimensional requirements. The standards for granting a variance are very strict; they are only approved when unique or unusual conditions prevent strict compliance with the requirements of the ordinance. You must demonstrate a unique physical or otherwise unusual condition beyond your control, which is not merely an economic hardship, to be eligible for a variance. Furthermore, the Board of Adjustment only grants variances when they are consistent with the spirit of the ordinance, the character of the surrounding neighborhood, and the public interest. Obtaining a variance is a public process that requires a hearing before the BOA. The Board of Adjustment is a 5 member body appointed by the County Executive and is staffed by the Assistant Zoning Administrator. Prior to applying for a variance a pre-application meeting should be scheduled with the Assistant Zoning Administrator.

Administrative Appeals

An administrative appeal is a legal process provided to resolve disputes regarding ordinance interpretations or decisions made by an administrative official related to zoning. For example, if the Zoning Administrator makes a decision that a particular land use is not permitted in a district and the property owner feels that the Zoning Administrator has incorrectly come to this conclusion, the decision can be appealed. Administrative appeals are a quasi-judicial procedure requested by an aggrieved party and are presented to the Board of Adjustment (BOA) during a public hearing. The BOA is a five member body appointed by the County Executive. During the hearing both the aggrieved party and the administrative officer will demonstrate their case by presenting facts and evidence to the Board. Upon hearing an appeal, the Board is granted the power to act within the full capacity of the administrative officer and can uphold, overturn, or take an otherwise appropriate action regarding the original decision. A pre-appeal meeting with the Assistant Zoning Administrator is recommended prior to filing an appeal application. All appeals must be made within 30 days of the date of the original decision.

Dane County Variance Application Administrative Appeal Information

Variance and Appeal Resources

Zoning Board Handbook

A Resource provided by the UW-Stevens Point Center for Land Use Education providing guidance on decision making for zoning boards and boards of adjustment.

Three-Step Test

This test is used by the Board to determine if relief from the standards of the zoning ordinance is warranted and can be used by applicants to aide in determining if they should request a variance.

Staff to the Board of Adjustment

Hans Hilbert, Assistant Zoning Administrator