Special Exceptions

A Special Exception is a use that may be appropriate in a specific zoning district under certain circumstances but may not “fit” in all locations within the same zoning district. A Special Exception is approved by the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA), as detailed in Section 14-16 of the Zoning Ordinance. A Special Exception can only be approved by the BZA if it satisfies the Special Exception criteria listed for each use in Section 5-2 of the Zoning Ordinance as well as the standards and findings stated in Section 14-19 of the Zoning Ordinance. The BZA may impose conditions to the Special Exception which are intended to offset impacts to adjacent properties resulting from the use requested. Due to the unique characteristics of the uses proposed and/or properties in question, each application is unique and, therefore, conditions applied to identical uses on different properties may be similar in nature, but with slight differences in the specifics of the conditions. In some circumstances, no set of conditions are sufficient to offset the impacts or meet the criteria to grant approval and, therefore, the BZA may deny these applications.


Prior to applying for a Special Exception, interested parties submit a pre-application and then meet with Planning and Zoning staff for a mandatory pre-application meeting to discuss the process, project, applicable Special Exception criteria, perceived impacts of the proposed use and Comprehensive Plan guidance.

Following the pre-application meeting, the Special Exception application (with the accompanying $275 fee) is submitted to the Department of Planning and Zoning. County staff and any applicable agencies will review the application and, following this review, Planning and Zoning staff will prepare a staff report to be presented to the BZA at the public hearing. Staff will discuss their findings and recommendations in the report with the applicant and provide the applicant a copy of the final staff report prior to the hearing.

Within 60 days of receipt of a complete application, a public hearing before the Board of Zoning Appeals will be held. The BZA meets the fourth Tuesday of every month, as needed. The public hearing is advertised in the legal notices of the local newspaper and all adjacent property owners are directly notified by mail. During the public hearing, staff will present the application to the BZA with their summarized analysis and recommendations. The applicant can speak before the BZA, and the public has the opportunity to comment on the application. At this public hearing or a subsequent meeting (but within 30 days following the public hearing), the BZA will decide to approve or deny the application.

Any request to amend an approved Special Exception application is considered a new Special Exception application and, therefore, is reviewed and decided upon by the BZA following a public hearing.

The pre-application meeting and Special Exception application can be found on the Planning and Zoning Department’s Forms and Policies page. Comprehensive Plan guidance for properties within the County can be found on the department’s Comprehensive Plan page and uses subject to a Special Exception can be found in Section 5-2 of the Zoning Ordinance.