Zoning review and approval ensure the desired use is permitted on a property. You may request variances, rezoning, conditional use permits, non-conforming use permits, or appeal a decision. Some zoning changes require a public hearing, which takes additional time.

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 found here

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.

Sec. 61.301. - Application.

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:

  • N​​​ame 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

Meetings

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; however during the COVID pandemic, hearings have been conducted online. It is essential that the applicant or their representative attend the hearing.

BZA agendas and meeting results may be found on this page.

Note to Commissioners and Members of the Public regarding online hearings:
The Chairperson of the BZA has determined that it is not practical nor prudent for the BZA to meet in-person or pursuant to Minnesota Statutes, Section 13D.02. In light of the COVID-19 health pandemic, it is not feasible for any member of BZA to be present at the regular location, and all members of the BZA will attend this meeting by telephone or other electronic means. It is also not feasible for members of the public to attend the meeting at its regular location due to the health pandemic and emergency. Accordingly, no meeting will be held in City Hall, Room 330, at 15 W. Kellogg Boulevard.

All BZA hearings are held virtually using the Microsoft Teams platform until further notice. Members of the public can click here to learn how to use Microsoft Teams in order to prepare for the hearing.

The applicant or their representative needs to attend the hearing. Applicants and private citizens may attend the hearings virtually by either entering the website for the meeting or by calling the conference line with the appropriate conference ID. The website and conference line phone number for the public hearing will be sent out to all involved parties regarding a variance application at least ten (10) days before the hearing.

Application Requirements

You must submit an application that includes the following:

  • 2022 BZA Application Packet
  • A survey or site plan drawn to scale with dimensions listed
  • 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.
  • Mail or drop-off the application and supporting documents to:
    Department of Safety & Inspections - Zoning
    375 Jackson Street, Suite 220
    Saint Paul, MN 55101

Appeal

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.

Description

Amount

Minor Variance

  • Single family addition or garage

$442

Major Variance 

  • Constructing new single family dwellings
  • When building an addition onto existing duplexes or building a new duplex

$547

Multi-family residential use (Major Variance)

  • Any new building with 3+ units
  • Any addition to an existing building with 3+ units
  • Converting an existing building with 2 units to 3+ units

$589

Commercial, industrial or institutional use (Major Variance)

$856

Sign Variance (Major Variance)

$547

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.

Expiration/Renewal

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. 

Appeal to City Council

The city council shall have the power to hear and decide appeals where it is alleged by the appellant that there is an error in any fact, procedure or finding made by the board of zoning appeals or the planning commission. An appeal may be taken to the city council by any person, firm or corporation or by any office, department, board or bureau affected by a decision of the board of zoning appeals or planning commission. Such appeal shall be taken within ten (10) days after the date of the decision appealed from and shall specify the grounds for the appeal. Appeals of decisions by the board of zoning appeals shall be filed with the zoning administrator; appeals of decisions by the planning commission shall be filed with the planning administrator, except that appeals of decisions by the planning commission on site plan review shall be filed with the zoning administrator.

The city council shall conduct a hearing on the appeal, shall give due notice of the hearing to all interested parties as required under section 61.303, and shall render a decision on the appeal without unreasonable delay. Any person may appear and testify at the hearing either in person or by duly authorized agent or attorney.

Building permits shall not be issued after an appeal has been filed. If permits have been issued before an appeal has been filed, then the permits are suspended and construction shall cease pending a final decision on the appeal.

Decisions of the city council on all matters within its jurisdiction shall be final subject only to judicial review by a court of competent jurisdiction.

Application Requirements

You must submit an application that includes the following:

  • A completed application for appeal form
  • A Letter stating the grounds for the appeal along with any supporting documentation
  • The required filing fee.

Submit the application and required supporting documents to:

Department of Safety & Inspections - Zoning Section
375 Jackson Street, Suite 220
Saint Paul, MN 55101

Or via email: DSI-ZoningReview@stpaul.gov

Fees

The nonrefundable appeal fee is $462.

Additional Zoning Responsibilities

Zoning responsibilities and functions are shared between the Zoning Administrator and DSI’s zoning staff, and the Planning and Economic Development Department (PED). PED’s Zoning Committee, a subcommittee of the Planning Commission, advises the Commission on these issues:

  • Amendments to the Zoning Code
  • Determinations of similar use, conditional uses, nonconforming uses, and rezoning issues

PED zoning staff coordinates the work involved in reviewing subdivisions including plats and lot splits. (Plats require a public hearing before Council while lot splits are administratively approved.)

For more details about these zoning functions, please follow the links listed here:

Questions about any of these functions may be directed to PED at 651-266-6700.

Last Edited: January 3, 2022