Here in St. Paul we have zoning laws and building codes. The zoning laws make it hard for businesses to operate in residential areas. When business owners want to circumvent the rules they can get a variance.
The way the variance system works is that nearby property owners are notified of the request and if they do not protest, complain and testify en masse the variance is granted. In fact, even if they do protest it may still be granted.
The variance system is kind of backward. Persons asking for a variance do not have to get the majority of neighbors to agree to it, instead neighbors have to protest it. Sometimes those neighbors are tenants and they don’t have a say.
There are many examples of this throughout the city. Business owners get variances that allow them to operate even though zoning laws and other laws forbid it. As homeowners, our property rights are constantly under siege as variances allow them to be taken away.
St. Paul residents need to understand that their next door neighbor could buy up neighboring properties, tear down some houses and convert their home into a business that generates noise, traffic and that might give off unpleasant odors. That is what can be accomplished with variances.
As property owners, we have the right to the peaceful enjoyment of our property. When a neighboring homeowner is granted a variance the neighbors sometimes lose that right.