Establishment of Nonconforming Use

An establishment of nonconforming use is a use of property not currently permitted in the zoning district in which it is located; it requires a permit per the zoning code. The Planning Commission has the authority to grant legal nonconforming status to a use that does not meet the requirements for administrative approval but has been in existence for at least 10 years. The Planning Commission's Zoning Committee holds a public hearing for establishment of nonconforming 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 an establishment of nonconforming use permit. Notice is also sent District Council. In addition, notices about all establishment of nonconforming 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 Thursday. 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 based on the review of the special conditions required by the zoning code, 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

Before the Planning Commission can grant a Nonconforming Use Permit, they must make the following findings:

  • The use occurs entirely within an existing structure;
  • The use is similar to other uses permitted within the district;
  • The use has been in existence continuously for a period of at least 10 years prior to the application;
  • The off-street parking is adequate to serve the use;
  • Hardship would result if the use were discontinued;
  • Rezoning the property would result in "spot" zoning or a zoning inappropriate to the surrounding land uses;
  • The use will not be detrimental to the existing character of development in the immediate neighborhood or endanger the public health, safety, or general welfare;
  • The use is consistent with the comprehensive plan; and
  • That a notarized petition of two-thirds of the property owners within 100 feet of the property has been obtained stating support for the use.

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 Nonconforming Use Permit.

Application Requirements

You must submit an application that includes the following:

  • A completed Nonconforming Use Permit Application Form, including evidence that all of the required conditions are met. This includes evidence that the use has been in existence for ten years, evidence of hardship, floor plans, site plans, and other information to substantiate the case. If the application is for a permit to grant legal nonconforming status for a duplex or triplex, contact the Zoning Section for additional information needed with the application.
  • The required fee
    Additional information

Fees & Inspections

A zoning staff person will visit the site to take photographs which will be shown at the public hearing. If the Nonconforming Use Permit is granted, an inspection is made as part of the building permit or license for the project. If a use established by a Nonconforming Use Permit fails to comply with any conditions of the permit, the Planning Commission may, after a public hearing, revoke the permit and require that the use be discontinued. Call 651-266-9008 to reach a Zoning Inspector. 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 Nonconforming Use Permit takes a minimum of four to six weeks.


Additional fee if variance needed$315.00
Non-Conforming Use / Determination of a Non-Conforming Use$735.00

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.

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 


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.

Last Edited: March 6, 2024