Board of Zoning Appeals
Zoning variances are exceptions to regulations that are in the zoning code and are made for a specific case. The Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) has the authority to grant zoning variances. The Board also has the power to hear and decide appeals where it is alleged by the appellant that there is an error in any order, requirement, permit, decision or refusal made by the Zoning Administrator in carrying out or enforcing any provision of the Zoning Code. To find out more, go to the Administrative Review (Appeal) page.
The seven-member Board, appointed by the Mayor with the consent of the City Council, is comprised of private citizens who live in Saint Paul.
An application for variance may be filed by any person having an ownership or leasehold interest in the subject land and/or building (contingent included). Such application shall be filed with the zoning administrator, or with the planning commission as provided in section 61.202(b), along with a site plan meeting the requirements of article IV, site plan review, and other information as required to support the application.
The BZA holds a public hearing before deciding each case. There are two types of variances cases - minor and major. Minor variances are for single family additions, garages, fences and pools; all other variances are major variances. The Citizen Participation District Council for the area is notified by mail at least 10 days prior to the public hearing. The city will notify property owners within 350 feet of the subject property for major variances and within 100 feet for minor variances at outlined in Sec. 61.303 of the zoning code. Anyone may testify at the hearing or send in written comments either in support or opposition to the request. A zoning staff report is given for each case, including a recommendation for approval or denial, a copy of which is sent to the applicant prior to the hearing.
Since this is a public hearing, any written comment or testimony that is submitted to the BZA for consideration should include the following:
- Name and address of the person writing the letter
- Reference the address, file number, or applicant that is applying for the variance(s)
- State which variance requests that you would like to comment on
The BZA will conduct a public hearing within four weeks of the application's submission. By State Law 15.99, a decision is required on zoning-related requests within 60 days of submission or automatic approval will be given. An extension of 60 days may be given, provided the applicant is given written notice. The BZA holds public hearings every other Monday. The hearings start at 3:00 p.m. in Room 330 of the City Hall/Courthouse. It is highly recommended that the applicant or their representative attend the hearing.
BZA agendas and meeting results may be found on the BZA Agendas & Results Webpage.
Interested parties may also sign up to receive BZA agendas, BZA agenda results, and notices of received applications via email. To subscribe, visit it City's Connect webpage. Enter your email and click "Subscribe." Doing so will take you to another page where specific notifications may be selected from a wide variety. Scroll down to "Early Notification System" (ENS) and select the District Council area in which you want to receive notifications for. Scroll down and press "submit." You are now subscribed and will receive notices pertaining to that area.
You must submit an application that includes the following:
- BZA Application Packet
- A survey or site plan drawn to scale with dimensions listed. For setback or lot coverage variance requests, a survey or site plan with location of relevant property stakes is required.
- Building elevations (if applicable)
- Floor plans
- The required filing fee (required to be paid on the day the application is submitted)
How to Submit a Completed Application:
- Via email to: DSI-ZoningReview@ci.stpaul.mn.us
- Applications must be received by 4:30 p.m. (Central Standard Time) on the cutoff date (listed in the application) in order for your case to be heard on the scheduled hearing date listed in the application. Please note that the DSI customer lobby at 375 Jackson Street closes at 4:00 p.m.
- Mail or drop-off the application and supporting documents to:
Department of Safety & Inspections - Zoning
375 Jackson Street, Suite 220
Saint Paul, MN 55101
Any affected party may appeal the decision of the BZA to the City Council within 10 days of the date of the decision.
Zoning Code Requirements
According to Sec. 61.601 of the zoning code, the BZA must make the following findings before they can grant a variance:
• The variance is in harmony with the general purposes and intent of the zoning code.
• The variance is consistent with the comprehensive plan.
• The applicant has established that there are practical difficulties in complying with the provision, that the property owner proposes to use the property in a reasonable manner not permitted by the provision. Economic considerations alone do not constitute practical difficulties.
• The plight of the landowner is due to circumstances unique to the property not created by the landowner.
• The variance will not permit any use that is not allowed in the zoning district where the affected land is located.
• The variance will not alter the essential character of the surrounding area. In granting a variance, the board or commission shall make written findings stating the grounds upon which the variance is justified. Inadequate access to direct sunlight for solar energy systems constitutes a practical difficulty in the third bullet point above.
In granting a variance, the BZA may attach reasonable conditions to their approval. The BZA does not have the authority to allow a use that is not otherwise permitted in the zoning district.
Zoning Variance Fees & Inspections
A zoning staff person will visit the site and take photos that will be shown during the public hearing. If the variance is granted, an inspection by the Building Inspector is made as part of the building permit for the project. A zoning inspector will verify that any conditions attached to the approval are met. Call 651-266-9008 to reach a zoning inspector.
Sec. 61.302 of the zoning code outlines the fees associated with variance applications.
Effective April 3, 2021, a 2.49% service fee will be charged for all credit or debit transactions and will appear as a separate transaction on your card statement. This fee is charged by the service provider the Department of Safety and Inspections uses to handle credit card transactions. The City will not receive any of the convenience fees.
|Multi-family residential use (Major Variance)
|Commercial, industrial or institutional use (Major Variance)||
|Sign Variance (Major Variance)||
Checks should be made payable to the City of Saint Paul. Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express are also accepted.
When a zoning application is submitted for a development that has been built or started without the required city permits, a late fee will be assessed. The late fee is double the filing fee.
Please contact the primary BZA staff member David Eide at 651-266-9088 if you have any questions or need help with the variance application or the public hearing process.
A zoning variance is valid for two years unless a building permit is obtained within the time frame and construction is proceeding according to the terms of the permit. The zoning administrator may grant an extension not to exceed one additional year. However, this request must be made before the variance expires.