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Zoning Board of Appeals

5-year term
City Manager Appointment

The City of Watertown Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) is a quasi-judicial 5-member citizen board appointed by the City Manager to 5-year staggered terms. New York State regulations require communities to have a Zoning Board of Appeals to review the following types of requests for waivers from any of the regulations in the zoning ordinance:

  • Use Variances: the ZBA reviews requests for relief from existing regulation for changes in density and uses not permitted by current zoning

  • Area Variances: the ZBA reviews requests for dimensional relief from existing regulation relating to building setbacks, building heights, allowed signage, etc.

  • Interpretations: the ZBA reviews requests for interpretation of the regulations in the zoning ordinance made by the City's Code Enforcement Officer.


ZBA’s are established as an appellant board that can review the applications of a person who has applied to the Code Enforcement Officer for a building permit and such permit was denied.  An “aggrieved” citizen can also appeal the decision of the Code Enforcement Officer where a permit was granted. 

In both cases, the ZBA is the first level of appeal from the decision of the Code Enforcement Officer.   The applicant must file its Notice to Appeal with the ZBA within 60 days after the code enforcement officer has filed his decision or action. 

In the case of a variance, the ZBA’s decision will be based upon the standards of proof contained in Section 81-b of the General City law.  For interpretations the ZBA will base its decision on the City’s zoning ordinance.   The applicant must provide proof of their case to the ZBA to receive a variance or a favorable interpretation.

The ZBA process usually takes 2-3 months from filing the application to conclusion.  The ZBA hearings are scheduled for the 3rd Wednesday of the month and are held in the City Council Chambers of the Watertown Municipal Building.   ZBA Legal Notices are published in the Watertown Daily Times and the meetings are open to the public. 

Applications to the Zoning Board of Appeals are available:

Planning Department
Room 304 City Hall 
245 Washington Street
Watertown, NY
Ph: (315) 785-7730

Justin Wood

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