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What is a variance?

Variances give an applicant permission to depart from the literal enforcement of the zoning ordinance. Variances are granted to alleviate unnecessary hardships. Applicants request variances when the strict enforcement of the ordinance would cause “undue hardship” because of circumstances unique to the property. An “undue hardship” is when the property cannot be put to reasonable use because of its size, physical surroundings shape, or topography. Staff performs a review of the findings for a variance when forming a recommendation.

Note: A common misconception about variances is that a financial or personal hardship justifies a variance. Economic and personal factors shall not constitute an undue hardship as variances are granted to a piece of land and not to an individual property owner.

What is the variance procedure?

  1. The property owner or applicant shall meet with the City Planner to discuss the situation and be advised of the procedures. A variance application form may be obtained at this time.
  2. The applicant shall submit a complete application form and fees to the Planning Department.
  3. A date for a public hearing at the Planning Commission will be set, usually within 30 days. City staff will review the proposal and submit a staff report with recommendations to the Planning Commission. The Planning Department reviews the application and makes a recommendation of approval or denial based upon the compliance with the 6 variance criteria (listed below). This staff report is presented to the Planning Commission for their review prior to the scheduled meeting.
  4. Property owners within 500 feet are notified of the upcoming variance application approximately 10 days prior to the public hearing. Notice of the public hearing at the Planning Commission is also published in the Sun Sailor 10 days prior to the meeting.
  5. At the Planning Commission meeting they review the staff report and ask questions of both staff and the applicant. The Chair of the Planning Commission opens up the Public Hearing for public comment. The public is asked to proceed to the podium and speak into the microphone so the comments can be recorded in the official minutes of the meeting. The Planning Commission then votes on the variance.
  6. The Planning Commission makes a recommendation to approve or deny a request. Additional restrictions, or modifications to conditions may be added to the variance at the Commissions discretion.
  7. The City Council , on the fourth Monday of the month, reviews the staff report and Planning Commission minutes and directs staff to prepare findings of fact for the next meeting or refers the request back to the Planning Commission.
  8. The City Council on the second Monday of the following month, adopts findings of fact approving or denying the variance. Approval requires a four-fifths affirmative vote of the City Council.
  9. The applicant or any person aggrieved at the Planning Commissions decision may appeal to the City Council by filing an appeal.

*A variance will become void within 1 year unless the applicant has completed a significant amount of work on their project

What are the variance application requirements?

A complete application for the majority of variances shall include:

  1. Application form.
  2. Fee.
  3. Mailing list and labels of property owners within 500 feet of subject property boundary. This list is obtained from Hennepin County Property Description Department 612-348-3271.
  4. An accurate survey showing:
    • Property boundaries and legal description
    • Existing and proposed man-made improvements (e.g. buildings, fences, retaining walls, paved surfaces, wells, utility lines, etc.)
    • Easements
    • Structures on lots within 100 feet of subject property
    • Ordinary high water level, if lakeshore
    • Wetlands
    • Natural features of the site which affect build ability ( e.g. topography, vegetation, soils, etc.)
    • Lot area and detailed breakdown of hard cover area.
    • Location of street pavement abutting the subject property.
    • Any additional information requested by City staff or which supports the variance request.
  5. Dimensional plans of existing and proposed structures (floor plans and elevations).
  6. A request letter addressing all the criteria set forth in Section 1201.05 of the Shorewood Zoning Ordinance

When should the application be submitted?

The application is due on the first Tuesday of the month to be on the Planning Commission agenda the first Tuesday of the following month.