Get in the zone

Getting a variance in 12 easy steps

It’s probably happened to you, and if it hasn’t there’s a good chance it could: you want to remodel, you have the plans, but when you take them to the city, something doesn’t fit the zoning codes and you have to get a variance.

Zoning codes are a set of rules a community places on the use of a property that are used to maintain the character of the neighborhood as well as encourage a variety of dwelling types consistent with the overall plan. Minneapolis has 35 zoning districts.

A variance is an allowed variation from zoning codes that the city grants after a long process of applications, meetings and recommendations. For the city to approve a variance it must determine that the building plans are the best possible option and that nearby properties will not be affected.

“The number one thing is to prove hardship,” said local contractor Ron Baker. “You’re doing a sale job… you need to convince people that you need this badly.”

“Make sure to win over the neighbors… [the city is] looking for something that is beneficial to the community at large, not just the homeowner,” Terry Streich, of SilverMark, Inc. said.

Download a pdf charting the route to a variance.