Zoning variations

The Village's Zoning Ordinance is intended to promote public safety, health, convenience, comfort, preservation of property values, and general welfare of the Village.

Reasonable exceptions to certain land use regulations for properties in River Forest are occasionally necessary.  The Zoning Ordinance contains the Village’s land use regulations and exceptions to these rules are called “variations.”  Variations allow the Village to provide relief to property owners from the strict application of the Zoning Ordinance when strict compliance with the rules presents a “practical difficulty” or “particular hardship.” 

Variations are typically granted where unique site conditions render the property less usable, due to no fault of the property owner.  Practical difficulties or particular hardships often exist on a property with peculiar site dimensions or configurations, unique topography, unusual terrain, unique soil compositions, etc.

Property owners may apply for variations and requests for major variations will be heard by the Village's Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) and decided by the Village President and Board of Trustees, while minor variations are heard and decided by the Village's Zoning Administrator. The ZBA’s purpose is to consider case-by-case applications for relief from specific zoning regulations.  It is the ZBA’s job to recognize, isolate, and evaluate the unique practical difficulties or particular hardships in each application, and consider the legitimacy of the claimed difficulty or hardship. The ZBA does not grant variations for the basic use of the property. For example, a property owner who wishes to use put a clothing store on a lot designated for use as a single-family residence (which isn’t allowed), cannot obtain relief from the land use restriction through the variation process. Instead, that property owner must use other processes available to him/her to obtain permission.

With any variation request, the applicant must pay an application fee and submit a completed application no later than the 15th day of the month.  The application will then be heard at the next ZBA meeting (typically held on the 2nd Thursday of each month).  The application form, linked below, contains a summary of all the application requirements. Please review them carefully. The ZBA must hold a public hearing, meet the Village’s public notice requirements, and make a recommendation to the Village Board whether or not the variation should be granted.  Under the Village’s rules, four votes in favor of the variation by the ZBA are needed to obtain a recommendation to approve the request to be sent to the Village Board for a final determination. If the applicant does not receive a recommendation in favor of approval, a vote of 2/3 of the Village Trustees is required to grant the variation. 

Once granted, unless otherwise stated in the variation, a variation becomes attached to the property itself, not to the individual property owner who obtained it. If the property should later change hands unless otherwise stated in the variation, all rights granted by the variation remain with the property, and the new owner enjoys all privileges bestowed by that variation.  The property owner who obtained the variation does not transfer those rights to his/her new home.  Please note: Variations will automatically expire nine (9) months after they have been granted unless the property owner (a) obtains a building permit and commences construction of the project; or (b) requests an extension, which may be granted for a period of up to 60 days.

Property owners can learn more about the building permit and contractor licensing processes that are required before construction may begin on a project that has been granted a variation.  Significant properties may also be subject to Historic Preservation requirements.  Additional information regarding the Zoning Variation process is available in the Important Links below. 

If you have any questions about variations, feel free to contact Village Staff at (708) 366-8500.

Important Links
Pending Applications

Zoning variation application


Contact Building Development Services & Zoning

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    River Forest, IL 60305
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