Apply for a variance


A variance is a requested deviation from the requirements of the Land Development Code where literal enforcement of the regulations would result in unnecessary physical, but not economic, hardship. 

A waiver of the requirements of Article 4, Division 2, Floodplain Management, is subject to different approval criteria and considerations. Additional information on waiver criteria can be found in Section 18-592 of the Land Development Code.


Step 1.Pre-Application

A pre-application meeting is required prior to submission of a variance application. The purpose of the pre-application meeting is to provide an overview of the process and general guidance on the request. Pre-application meetings may be scheduled by emailing the Zoning team or calling 910.254.0900.

Step 2.Approval Criteria

When requesting a variance, an applicant must demonstrate that:

  • Unnecessary hardship would result from the strict application of the regulations of the LDC.
  • The hardship results from conditions peculiar to the site (size, topography, etc.); hardships that are common to the neighborhood or to the general public may not be the basis for granting the variance;
  • The hardship does not result from actions taken by the applicant or property owner; and
  • The requested variance is consistent with the intent of the LDC such that public safety is secured and substantial justice is achieved.

The criteria for waivers to floodplain regulations can be reviewed in Section 18-592 of the Land Development Code.

Board of Adjustment (BOA) Public Hearing

As variance decisions are quasi-judicial in nature, the BOA holds evidentiary hearings on variance requests. Evidentiary hearings differ from other public hearings in the following ways:

  • Ex parte communications between an applicant or an affected party and members of the BOA are prohibited. If such communications occur, they must be disclosed at the beginning of the hearing.
  • Board members cannot participate in the hearing or vote on the application in a manner that would violate affected persons' constitutional rights to an impartial decision maker.
  • All persons presenting evidence must do so under oath.
  • All persons shall offer only competent, material and substantial evidence in their presentation. Competence shall be determined by the board in its decision.
  • All persons with standing (as determined by the board) shall have the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses and inspect any evidence presented.
  • All parties or persons with standing shall have the opportunity to offer competent evidence in explanation or rebuttal to objecting participants.

Step 3.Findings of Fact

To grant a variance, the BOA must make the following four findings based on the evidence presented at the hearing:

  1. Special conditions and circumstances exist which are peculiar to the land, structure or building involved and which are not applicable to other lands, structures or buildings in the same district.
  2. Literal interpretation of the provisions of the Land Development Code would deprive the applicant of rights commonly enjoyed by other properties in the same district under the terms of the Land Development Code.
  3. Special conditions and circumstances do not result from the actions of the applicant.
  4. Granting the variance requested will not confer on the applicant any special privilege that is denied by the Land Development Code to other lands, structures, or buildings in the same district.

Step 4.Decision

To grant a variance, four of the five Board of Adjustment members must vote to approve.


Step 1.Applications Accepted Monthly

Rezoning applications are accepted on a monthly basis according to the Board of Adjustment meeting and deadline schedule(PDF, 264KB) . Applications received after the established deadline will be included with the following month's review cycle submissions.

Step 2.Electronic Submissions

All applications must be submitted electronically by emailing the Zoning team

Step 3.Application Components

All application components (e.g. application, information required for each alteration type , etc.) must be submitted individually and named accordingly.

Step 4.Large Files

Please contact the Zoning team to make arrangements for files that exceed email limits.

Step 5.Professional Seals

Professional seals (engineers, land surveyors, architects, etc) on digital plans must be redacted from digital copies submitted to the city for review. Please be sure to mark, strike through, or otherwise conceal any professional seal located on your digital (re)submittals (e.g., PDF).



Fee Amount


*A mailed notice fee of $0.85/notice shall apply to all applications received on or after July 1, 2024. This fee will be determined during the review process and a separate invoice issued. The supplemental fee must be paid prior to a hearing on the application.

Payment Options

If you plan to pay in advance, planning staff must first notify the collections department to enable acceptance of payments.

Payment by Phone (910. 343.4745)

  • 8 am to 5 pm (Monday through Friday except for holidays)
  • Limited to VISA and MasterCard payments.

Payment in Person

  • 8 am to 5 pm (Monday through Friday except for holidays)
  • Billing & Collections Office
    Skyline Center
    929 North Front Street, 1st Floor

Payment by Mail

  • Please include invoice number or account number
  • Regular Mail
    City of Wilmington Collections
    PO Box 1810
    Wilmington, NC 28402
  • Express Mail
    City of Wilmington Collections

    929 North Front Street, 1st Floor
    Wilmington, NC 28401