A variance is a request for permission to deviate from the guidelines outlined in Section 27-4 (Zones and Zone Regulations") of the Prince George's County Zoning Ordinance. These guidelines regulate lot size, lot width, building height, building setbacks from property lines, and the percentage of property covered with parking and structures. 

Under certain circumstances, the Board of Zoning Appeals (or the Planning Board or District Council in conjunction with certain zoning cases) may grant the property owner relief from the strict application of the Zoning Ordinance.  Such relief may be granted on the basis of facts presented at a public hearing,  

Applicable Code Section and Authority

The Board is authorized to grant the requested variances if it finds that the following provisions of Section 27-3613(d) of the Prince George’s County Zoning Ordinance are satisfied:

General Variance Decision Standards

A variance may only be granted when the review board or official, as appropriate, finds that:

  1. A specific parcel of land is physically unique and unusual in a manner different from the nature of surrounding properties with respect to exceptional narrowness, shallowness, shape, exceptional topographic conditions, or other extraordinary conditions peculiar to the specific parcel (such as historical significance or environmentally sensitive features);
  2. The particular uniqueness and peculiarity of the specific property causes a zoning provision to impact disproportionately upon that property, such that strict application of the provision will result in peculiar and unusual practical difficulties to the owner of the property;
  3. Such variance is the minimum reasonably necessary to overcome the exceptional physical conditions;
  4. Such variance can be granted without substantial impairment to the intent, purpose and integrity of the General Plan or any Functional Master Plan, Area Master Plan, or Sector Plan affecting the subject property;
  5. Such variance will not substantially impair the use and enjoyment of adjacent properties; and
  6. A variance may not be granted if the practical difficulty is self-inflicted by the owner of the property.

A variance is distinguished from a special exception by virtue of the fact that a variance depends upon a finding of the existence of practical difficulty or unusual hardships in the application of the Zoning Ordinance to a particular piece of property by reasons of conditions unique to that property. A special exception requires no such finding, merely a finding that the conditions stated in the Zoning Ordinance have been satisfied.

Variance Instruction and Application

In order to file a variance with the Board of Appeals, an application and documents must be submitted in addition to filing fee, sign posting fee and interpreter fee, if needed.  You will find the application link below.  Instruction can be found within the application package.

Once you complete the application and compile the necessary documents, you can email the entire package to  Or you can contact our office to submit your application in person by requesting an appointment.  Please call 301-952-3220.

Download the Variance Application below:

Variance Application and Instructions

If a variance is approved that permits the erection of a building or structure, the variance will not be valid for more than two (2) years, unless a building permit for the erection is obtained within this period and the construction is started and proceeds to completion in accordance with the terms of the decision and the permit. If a variance is denied, a variance request covering the same subject may not be filed within a 12-month period, and following a second denial, the request may be not be filed within an 18-month period. 

Within thirty (30) days from the date the Board issues a variance decision, any person, firm, corporation, or governmental agency who was a party to the Board's proceedings and is aggrieved by its decision may file an appeal to the Circuit Court of Prince George's County.