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 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, of this chapter, and other information as required to support the application.
The BZA holds a public hearing before deciding on 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 as well as all property owners within 350 feet of the subject property for major variances and within 100 feet for minor variances. 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 essential that the applicant or their representative attend the hearing.
Note to Commissioners and Members of the Public:
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.
You must submit an application that includes the following:
- A site plan drawn to scale with dimensions listed or survey
- 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@stpaul.gov
- 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 Section
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.
|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 Matthew Graybar at 651-266-9080 or the alternate BZA staff member Stephan Suon at 651-266-1924 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.