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's Zoning Committee holds a public hearing for determination of similar use permits, and makes a recommendation to the Planning Commission for a final vote. Public hearing notices are mailed at least ten days prior to property owners within 350 feet of the property seeking a determination of similar use permit. Notice is also sent to the area's District Council. In addition, notices about all determination of similar use cases are published in the Saint Paul Legal Ledger on Mondays, 10 days before the public hearing. Notices can be searched by property address and viewed by visiting Twin Cities MarketPlace - Legals.

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:

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.

Determination of Similar Use - Inspections and Fees

A zoning staff person will visit the site to take photos which will be shown at the public hearing. If a Determination of Similar Use is granted, an inspection is made as part of the building permit or license for the project. Call 651-266-9008 to reach a Zoning Inspector.


Additional fee if variance required$315.00
Determination of Similar Use$735.00

*Effective April 3, 2021, DSI customers using a credit or debit card will be charged a 2.49% service fee to cover costs associated with these transactions.

Checks should be made payable to the City of Saint Paul. 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.


No decision of the Zoning or Planning Administrator, Planning Commission, Board of Zoning Appeals or City Council approving a site plan, permit, variance, or other zoning approval shall be valid for a period longer than two years, unless a building permit is obtained within such period and the erection or alteration of a building is proceeding under the terms of the decision, or the use is established within such period by actual operation pursuant to the applicable conditions and requirements of the approval, unless the Zoning or Planning Administrator grants an extension not to exceed one year.

Please submit the above to:

Department of Planning and Economic Development
Zoning Section
1400 City Hall Annex 25 Fourth Street West
Saint Paul, MN 55102

Last Edited: March 6, 2024