The following is a step-by-step guide to the variance hearing process. The most important thing to remember is that you must be prepared to prove your case.
A Hearing Request Form is available in the Hearing Process section on this page
All hearings are conducted in accordance with the procedures set forth in Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 30A (available in hard copy at the State House Book Store), and are open to the public.
You have been scheduled to appear at a specific time and are allotted approximately 30 minutes to prove your case, unless the Board deems more time is necessary. You should be aware that it is the Board's standard procedure to send copies of your application for variance, as well as the notice of hearing and the final decision, to the Local Building Inspector, Local Disability Commission, and the Independent Living Center for the area in which the building is located.
When you appear at the hearing, you will be sworn in by the Chairperson and be asked to present your case.
When making your presentation, you should address the areas for which you are requesting a variance. If you are submitting evidence such as letters, etc., please bring ten (10) copies so that each member has a copy. Written material of two (2) or more pages should be sent one (1) week prior to the hearing, in order to get the information out to the Board prior to the scheduled hearing. Additional material of more substance submitted the day of a hearing may require a continuation, so that the Board may completely review the additional information.
Who should appear at the hearing?
It is important for the architect to appear at the hearing as well as the owner. However, if the architect has the authority to act in behalf of the owner, the owner need not be present. The architect should bring a letter from the owner indicating that he/she has their authority to act on their behalf. Anyone directly affected by this variance should appear in the event that the Board has questions.
Do I need legal counsel at the hearing?
No. 90% of the Board's hearings are conducted without parties being represented legal counsel. However, if you wish to be represented by legal counsel, you may do so.
What type of presentation should be used?
All visual material should be readable from at least ten (10) feet away. It is helpful to mount drawings and photographs on presentation boards.
It is extremely important when presenting, that plans are very clear. Color coding plans, i.e., showing areas that are accessible in one (1) color and inaccessible areas in another color are extremely helpful. Also, provide the Board with 8 1/2" x 11" sheets of the presentation, so that they may be entered in as an exhibit if the material is new. Photographs depicting existing conditions in specific areas of the building for which variances are being requested are extremely helpful.
What information is necessary?
The estimated cost of the construction for the project and written cost estimates of what it would cost to comply with the Board's regulations.
You should also be prepared to show plans indicating possible alternative solutions to how compliance could be achieved, and associated costs with each solution.
When will I find out the decision on my variance?
If all material is presented, the Board will make a decision at the end of the hearing or take the case under advisement and make a decision later in the day or at its next meeting. It usually takes about four (4) weeks to receive the written decision.
Is there an appeal process if I am aggrieved by the Board's decision?
Yes, however, the appeal process is through the Superior Court. An appeal must be filed in Superior Court within 30 days of receipt of the decision.
The Board also may reopen the hearing only if you have new information or new evidence which was not reasonably available to you at the time of the hearing.
Remember, the burden of proof is on the applicant to prove his/her case. Statutorily, the Board can only grant variances if compliance with the regulations is technologically infeasible or the cost of compliance is excessive without any substantial benefit to persons with disabilities.