Variance “Fix” Signed; Happy Days are Here Again

OK, that’s probably over-selling it.  But it is true that earlier this week the Legislature finished work on legislation to undo last summer’s Supreme Court decision and make zoning variances viable again, and the Governor signed the bill yesterday afternoon.  The new law is effective today.

The new law eliminates almost every difference that existed between the County variance law (MS 394.27, subd. 7) and the variance law used by cities and towns (MS 462.357, subd. 6).  Now everyone will use one standard, “practical difficulties,” defined this way:

“Practical difficulties” … means that the property owner proposes to use the property in a reasonable manner not permitted by the zoning ordinance; the plight of the landowner is due to circumstances unique to the property not created by the landowner; and the variance, if granted, will not alter the essential character of the locality.

This law restores the common practice on variance that existed before the Krummenacher decision last July.  So, as of today, it is again worthwhile to consider a variance for a garage or an out-building – under Krummenacher, these could never happen because the property already had viable economic use in the form of the applicant’s house.

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