Early in the history of zoning it was recognized that it was nearly impossible to write a set of regulations affecting the development of land that could be universally applied. Many communities in Michigan and throughout the country had hundreds or thousands of parcels of land to which zoning standards had to be applied. As a result, it was clear that a means of providing relief from the strict requirements of the zoning ordinance was needed for property owners with unique conditions related to their property.
To provide an avenue of appeal, each state’s zoning enabling acts required that any community which adopted a zoning ordinance have a zoning board of appeals. The function of the ZBA was to be a quasi-judicial body, to carry out two principal functions:
1. To hear and decide appeals of administrative decisions made in implementing the zoning ordinance; and
2. To hear and decide requests for variances from the strict terms of the zoning ordinance.
In addition, the ZBA is occasionally called upon to interpret the provisions of the zoning ordinance.