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Serving
Massachusetts Agencies

Special Permits and Variances

Zoning

A special permit is an administrative device that permits a landowner to use property in a manner which the zoning regulations anticipate and permit, but only under specific conditions and standards set forth in the regulations themselves. In contrast, a variance allows a property owner to maintain a land use which is prohibited by the zoning ordinance. A Missouri appellate court [Ford Leasing Dev. v. City of Ellisville, 78 S.W.2d 228 (Mo.Ct.App., 1986)] pointed out that a special permit (also called special exception or condition al use) permit [sic] is personal to the owner to whom it is granted. A variance runs with the land."