Variances and Departures

What is a Variance?

A variance is a mechanism to obtain relief from the strict application of certain requirements such as building height, building setback, and yard requirements. They are appropriate in situations where strict conformance would result in unusual practical difficulties or undue hardship for the owner of the property. For example, a lot might be so narrow as to make it impossible to observe the side yard setback requirements when building a home. 

Requests for variances are reviewed by the Bowie Advisory Planning Board who recommend an action to City Council who is authorized to grant variances. The County Planning Board and District Council are also authorized to grant variances associated with development applications on which they take the final action. 

To request a variance, download and complete the application. Return your application to Marianne Baird by email or to the address below with payment via check made payable to the City of Bowie. 

City of Bowie Planning Department
15901Fred Robinson Way
Bowie, MD 20716

Planning Director Variance Administrative Request (PDVAR)

The Planning Director may issue a variance in uncontested cases and cases where the variance requested is of a minimal nature, where in the judgment of the Planning Director the applicant otherwise satisfies the criteria for the grant of a variance.


A departure grants relief from the strict application of requirements for:

(1) the design of parking and loading facilities;

(2) the number of parking and loading spaces;

(3) sign regulations; and

(4) landscaping, buffering, and screening requirements of the County Landscape Manual.

To request a departure, download the departure packet (PDF). Send the completed application along with payment to:  

City of Bowie Planning Department
15901 Fred Robinson Way
Bowie, MD 20716