Variances allow an applicant permission to depart from the literal enforcement of the zoning ordinance and are granted to alleviate practical difficulties. Variances are requested when the strict enforcement of the ordinance would cause a “practical difficulty” because of circumstances unique to the property, as is when the property cannot be put to reasonable use because of its size, physical surroundings, shape, or topography.

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

Variance Procedure

  1. The property owner or applicant shall meet with a planner to discuss the situation and be advised of the procedures. A variance application form may be obtained at this time along with the application checklist.
  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.
  4. 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 six variance criteria (listed below). This staff report is presented to the Planning Commission for their review several days prior to the scheduled meeting.
  5. 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 City's official newspaper 10 days prior to the meeting.
  6. 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 meeting for public comment. The Planning Commission then votes on the variance.
  7. The Planning Commission may approve or deny a request. Additional restrictions, or modifications to conditions may be added to the variance at the Commission's discretion.
  8. The applicant or any person aggrieved at the Planning Commission's decision may appeal to the City Council by filing an appeal within four days after the date of the Commission's decision. If an appeal is not filed, the Commission's decision is final.
*A variance will become void within one (1) year of approval unless the applicant has completed a significant amount of work on their project.

Application Requirements

  • Application form
  • Fee of $450 ($200 Application Fee/$200 Notification Sign Fee/$50 Document Recording Fee)
  • Evidence of ownership or interest in the property
  • Location map
  • List of property owners within 500 feet of property boundary in question (compiled by City after application is submitted - applicant is invoiced $3.00 per address). Property adjacent to a lake may require a list of all property abutting the lake, depending on the type of variance request.
  • Accurate survey and preliminary plans for the site
  • Written description of the variance request
  • Written statement that answers all six of the findings for granting a variance (pursuant to Chanhassen City Code Section 20-58) listed below. A variance may be granted only in the event that all of the following circumstances exist:
    1. Variances shall only be permitted when they are in harmony with the general purposes and intent of this chapter and when the variances are consistent with the comprehensive plan.
    2. When there are practical difficulties in complying with the zoning ordinance. "Practical difficulties," as used in connection with the granting of a variance, means that the property owner proposes to use the property in a reasonable manner not permitted by this chapter. Practical difficulties include, but are not limited to, inadequate access to direct sunlight for solar energy systems.
    3. That the purpose of the variation is not based upon economic considerations alone.
    4. The plight of the landowner is due to circumstances unique to the property not created by the landowner.
    5. The variance, if granted, will not alter the essential character of the locality.
    6. Variances shall be granted for earth-sheltered construction as defined in Minnesota Statute 216C.06, Subd. 14, when in harmony with this chapter.