In a municipality the governing body may choose to issue a conditional use permit for certain types of developments. Minn. Stat. § 462.3595. Getting such a permit allows for a use to be specifically allowed in a zoning district as long as certain standards are met. A conditional use permit leads to land development in that area to then be regulated more closely than others, because of the addition of specific conditions and standards. These special conditions are needed in order to ensure compatibility with other surrounding land uses. As a property owner on such land, it will be required of the owner to comply with the conditions set forth by the governing body.
Conditional Use Permit VS Variance
A conditional use permit is different from a variance because, with a permit, the owner is allowed to put his property to use in a way that the ordinance expressly permits. A variance allows the owner to use property in a way that is otherwise forbidden by an ordinance.
Conditional use permits may only be granted for uses that are specifically listed in a municipalities zoning ordinance. If a suggested use in not designated as a conditional use in the zoning district, the permit will not be granted. In order to allow such a permit the zoning ordinance would have to be amended to allow for that specific conditional use.
Most times there are general standards in the zoning ordinance that apply to conditional uses. Some ordinances stipulate that conditional use permits must be in line with the comprehensive land use plan of the municipality, be compatible with nearby properties, or that they must be served by adequate roads and public utilities. Besides these general standards, there may also be specific standards for specific conditional uses, including off-street parking and loading areas, landscaping plans, and hours of business operation.
Obtaining a Conditional Use Permit in Minnesota
In order for a conditional use permit to be issued, a public hearing must be held. Minn. Stat. § 462.3595 subd. 2. Notice of the time, place, and purpose of the hearing must be published in the official newspaper of the municipality at least ten days before the hearing. If such a hearing affects an area of five acres or less, all property owners that live within 350 feet of the land in question must receive notice in the mail at least ten days before the hearing. Minn. Stat. § 462.357 subd. 3.
Duration of a Conditional Use Permit
Once a conditional use permit is granted, it will last so long as the conditions that were agreed upon continue to be followed. Although the permit will last until a condition is not met, the municipality retains the right to change or amend the status of the the conditional use permit. Minn. Stat. § 462.3595 subd. 3.
When Are Conditional Use Permits Used?
Conditional use permits arise from the challenge of balancing the need to accommodate the public with the need to preserve the purpose of zoning and local ordinances, primarily in serving the public health, safety, and general welfare.
SuperAmerica Group, Inc. a Div. of Ashland Oil, Inc. v. City of Little Canada, 539 N.W.2d 264, 266-67 (Minn. Ct. App. 1995). The most common properties that require a conditional permit are gas stations, electric substations, hospitals, schools, churches, country clubs, and the like. Zylka v. City of Crystal, 167 N.W.2d 45, 48-49. These are businesses and operations that are in high demand with the public, but may have safety repercussions, including increased heavy traffic congestion, increased population density, heightened noise levels, and other considerations that affect the public health, safety, and general welfare. Id. These inherent dangers in the use of the land or problems that arise from the proposed location are what the governing body of the municipality will take into consideration when determining whether or not to grant a conditional use permit.
There are inevitably going to be times when a building, for example a school, desires to be in a specific locality. Such a school may be incompatible with that specific zoning district. In a situation like this, the governing body of the municipality will have the opportunity to review the situation and consider the potential hazards that having a school in that particular area may bring. Upon review, the governing body may allow the building as long as it complies with the standards of the particular zoning district it desires to be located in, as well as any other specific conditions that apply to that particular conditional use.
Conditional use permits are a method of providing leniency in zoning ordinances, allowing for uses in a zoning district, which absent the required specific conditions would not be allowed into the zoning area. One one hand, the conditional use permit allows the governing body of the municipality to further regulate and protect the public health, safety, and general welfare, and on the other conditional use permits allow for a certain amount of flexibility in the local ordinances, benefiting local businesses and property owners.