Over vacation, we had to apply for a building permit in Connecticut. Luckily, the zoning board just went through an upheaval where one member was dismissed because too many people had their applications denied. Given the new-found pro-customer cheer at the zoning office, it seems we're likely to not require a variance.
Connecticut allows for boroughs to incorporate as subsidiaries of towns. This grants the borough self-governance for zoning purposes, which may be easier than re-educating a zoning board, provided that one can get one's neighbors to join. One could imagine the current civic organizations (for private roads, beaches, etc.) expanding into boroughs.