- How do I start the BOZA process?
All applicants begin by meeting with a plan examiner to apply for occupancy and/or building permits. If the proposed use or plan does not conform to the zoning code, you will be issued a ‘referral letter’ indicating that Board of Zoning Appeals approval is required prior to the issuance of the permits. You may stop by the BOZA office or visit the website to receive instructions on how to apply and what application materials are required. The BOZA process officially begins once you have submitted your application and supporting materials to the Board office.Return to Top
- Why do I need to go through this process?
Chapter 295 of the Milwaukee Code of Ordinances, known as the ‘Zoning Code’, regulates land use and design. Each subchapter of the Zoning Code includes a use table which categorizes uses as a Permitted Use, Limited Use, Special Use or Prohibited Use. A use identified as a Special Use or a Prohibited Use requires approval from the Board of Zoning Appeals. In addition, the Zoning Code regulates building designs, signs, fences and other site features. When plans do not comply with the Zoning Code, an appeal may be filed with BOZA. If you are filing an application with BOZA, you are probably asking for approval of a Special Use and/or Variance.Return to Top
- What is a Special Use?
The Milwaukee Code of Ordinances defines a Special Use as a use which is generally acceptable in a particular zoning district but which, because of its characteristics and the characteristics of the zoning district in which it would be located, requires review on a case by case basis to determine whether it should be permitted, conditionally permitted, or denied. A Special Use appeal is filed when a proposed use is identified as a Special Use in the land use tables of the Zoning Code.Return to Top
- What is a Use Variance?
The Milwaukee Code of Ordinances defines a Use Variance as permission to depart from the literal requirements of the Zoning Code. A Use Variance appeal is filed when a proposed use is identified as Not Permitted in the Zoning Code.Return to Top
- What is a Dimensional Variance?
The Milwaukee Code of Ordinances defines a Dimensional Variance as permission to depart from any of the literal requirements of this chapter except use regulations, including but not limited to departure from an area, setback, frontage, height, bulk, density or design requirement. A Dimensional Variance application is filed when a proposed structure or site element does not conform to the requirements of the Zoning Code.Return to Top
- The Statement of Special Use asks about “consistency with the city’s comprehensive plan.” How can I learn about my area’s comprehensive plan?
The City of Milwaukee's Comprehensive Plan consists of a Citywide Policy Plan and Area Plans which guide development in individual neighborhoods. Area Plans are part of the City's Comprehensive Plan. There are thirteen Area Plans which guide future neighborhood development with land use, design, and catalytic project recommendations.Return to Top
- How much does a BOZA application cost?
The fees associated with a Special Use or Use Variance application are calculated by the total area of the lot. Dimensional Variance fees are assessed based on the number of variances requested. Upon filing your application, the Board office will only accept the filing fee of $100. This $100 fee is used as a credit to your total appeal fee if you choose to proceed with your appeal after the Zoning Administration Group reviews your proposal. A letter requesting the remaining balance of the appeal fee will be sent to you and must be returned, signed and dated, with the payment should you choose to proceed.Return to Top
- Why do I only pay $100 when I submit my application materials?
The $100 fee is used as a credit to your total appeal fee if you choose to proceed with your appeal after the Zoning Administration Group (ZAG) reviews your proposal. Occasionally ZAG will identify additional circumstances that exist that might alter your decision to proceed with the appeal. Should you decide that you are no longer interested in pursuing the request, you do not have to pay the remaining appeal fee. If you wish to proceed, the fee must be paid before your application can be considered for a hearing.Return to Top
- How long does the BOZA process take?
Board staff requires approximately 4 to 6 weeks to process a routine application. During this time your application is reviewed by the Zoning Administration Group, a hearing is scheduled and public notices are sent to adjacent property owners. Depending on the individual circumstances surrounding an application, more or less time may be required.Return to Top
- What is a Conditional Certificate of Occupancy? How do I apply for one?
It is possible to request a Conditional Certificate of Occupancy (CCO) while awaiting approval by the Board of Zoning Appeals. The certificate allows you to conditionally use the premises for the proposed use until the Board has made it’s decision. CCOs are granted at the discretion of the Department of City Development and cannot be issued without Aldermanic support and the support of the Zoning Administration Group. The issuance of a CCO does not guarantee that the Board will approve your appeal. Please speak with a representative from the Development Center for additional information on how to apply for a Conditional Certificate of Occupancy.Return to Top
- I paid my fees; when will I be scheduled for a hearing?
Once you have paid all required fees, your application is considered complete and eligible to be scheduled for the next available hearing. Depending on the individual circumstances surrounding your application, additional time may be needed for scheduling.Return to Top
- My occupancy expires this month, but I haven't been schedule for a hearing. What should I do?
Approximately one month before your BOZA approval is set to expire, you should receive a notice in the mail informing you that it is time to reapply. Provided that you file your renewal application in a timely manner and there no significant health or safety risks associated with continued occupancy of the premises, you may continue operating under your expired occupancy until the Board hears and decides your case. Remember, the BOZA process is not complete until a new occupancy reflecting the new expiration date is issued.Return to Top
- Do I have to appear at the hearing?
Once scheduled, you may be asked to attend the hearing to provide additional information and answer any questions the Board members may have. When you are scheduled for a hearing, a public notice will be sent to you and will include whether your attendance at the hearing is requested. If your appearance is requested and you choose not to attend, your appeal may be adjourned to a later hearing date.Return to Top
- Do I have to answer questions at the hearing?
The Board members are generally interested in your plan for the property and how you have taken into consideration the criteria for a Special Use and/or Variance. You may be asked to address any objections or concerns that have been submitted by interested parties either in writing or at the hearing.Return to Top
- The Board approved my appeal. How do I get my Occupancy Permit?
If your appeal is approved by the Board, you may proceed to obtain the necessary permits to continue. The Board will reduce its decision, given verbally at the hearing, to writing within approximately one week of the date of the hearing. A copy will be mailed to you within that time frame. That written decision is then used to obtain the permits to complete the project from the Development Center. Inspections of your property and/or additional licenses may be required prior to the issuance of the occupancy permit. Remember, the BOZA process is not complete until permits have been issued. Please speak with a member of the Development Center staff if you have any questions about the status of your permit.Return to Top
- How long does my BOZA approval last?
An approval period for a Special Use or Variance application is determined by the Board and will vary based on a number of conditions, including, but not limited to, the impact of the proposed use on surrounding properties, the size of the proposed investment, and any history of similar uses at the premises. Most cases are approved with a term limit.Return to Top
- How will I find out when my BOZA approval is about to expire?
Approximately one month before your BOZA approval is set to expire, you should receive a notice in the mail informing you that it is time to reapply. You may also check BOZA’s online database for additional information about your approval.Return to Top
- What happens if the Board doesn’t approve my appeal?
If your appeal is denied by the Board, you have the right to appeal to Circuit Court. Any party aggrieved by a decision of the Board of Zoning Appeals has the right to appeal that decision to Circuit Court within 30 days of the date of the written decision. If you have questions regarding appeals to Circuit Court, please contact a legal professional.
In addition, no appeal which has been denied or dismissed with prejudice shall be considered again within three (3) years of the filing of the Board's decision without material alteration or revision or substantial change in circumstances as determined by the Board except pursuant to court order or by motion to reconsider made by a member voting with the majority.Return to Top