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Determination of Similar Use
General Information

A Determination of Similar Use is when the Planning Commission determines that a proposed use that is not in the zoning ordinance is "similar" to a use that is in the zoning code. The zoning administrator first issues a statement of clarification finding that the use is not sufficiently similar to any other use specifically listed and regulated in the zoning code. Any person proposing such use may then file an application for the Planning Commission to determine if a use is or is not similar to other uses permitted in each district. The Planning Commission is a 21-member citizen board appointed by the Mayor with the consent of the City Council. Their 8-member Zoning Committee holds a public hearing and makes a recommendation to the full Planning Commission. All property owners within 350 feet of the subject property and the Citizen Participation District Council for the area are notified by mail at least 10 days prior to the public hearing.

The Zoning Committee holds public hearings every other Thursdays. The hearings start at 3:30 p.m. in City Council Chambers on the third floor of the City Hall/ Courthouse. It is essential that the applicant or their representative attend the hearing. At the public hearing, the Zoning Committee hears a staff report and recommendation, hears public testimony and makes a recommendation on the request. The Planning Commission receives the recommendation of their Zoning Committee at its next meeting, 8:30 a.m. on the Friday of the following week, when they approve or deny the application. This is a public meeting, but no public testimony can be heard.

Code Requirements

The Planning Commission must make the following findings in determining one use is similar to another.

  • That the use is similar in character to one or more of the principal uses permitted.
  • That the traffic generated on such use is similar to one or more of the principal uses permitted.
  • That the use is not first permitted in a less restrictive zoning district.
  • That the use is consistent with the comprehensive plan.

The Planning Commission may impose such reasonable conditions and limitations in granting an approval as are determined to be necessary to fulfill the spirit and purpose of the zoning code and to protect adjacent properties.

The Planning Commission may act as the Board of Zoning Appeals and grant Zoning Variances in accordance with the variance provisions in the zoning code for proposals that also require a Determination of Similar Use.

Application Requirements

You must submit an application that includes the following:

Please submit the above with:
Department of Planning and Economic Development
Zoning Section
1400 City Hall Annex
25 Fourth Street West
Saint Paul, MN 55102
(651) 266 - 6589

All items to be placed on an agenda must be submitted at least three weeks prior to the hearing date, according to the Planning Commission Hearing Schedule. The process for obtaining a Determination of Similar Use takes a minimum of four to six weeks.

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