H.F. No. 52 changes the standard that a county or municipality (e.g., city or town) must use in issuing a variance to the zoning ordinance. The variance authority for counties and municipalities are made more similar to each other than they are in current law.
This bill is in response to the recent Minnesota Supreme Court opinion Krummenacher v. City of Minnetonka. This opinion changed the standard by which cities can issue variances. The bill language is more consistent with how variances were granted prior to the Krummenacher opinion.
A county, city, or town may grant a variance when the applicant for the variance establishes that there are practical difficulties in complying with the zoning ordinance. “Practical difficulties” means that the property owner proposes to use the property in reasonable manner not permitted by ordinance; the landowner’s plight is due to circumstances that are unique to the property and are not created by the landowner; and a variance, if granted, will not alter the essential character of the locality.
Section 1 makes the changes discussed above to the county authority to grant variances. The “practical difficulties” standard replaces the “hardship” standard that is in current law.
Section 2 makes the changes discussed above to the city and town authority to grant variances. The “practical difficulties” standard replaces the “undue hardship” standard in current law. Consistent with current county law, cities and towns may only grant variances when they are in harmony with the general purposes and intent of the zoning ordinance and when the terms of the variance are consistent with the comprehensive plan.
The bill is effective the day following final enactment.