The following information is a summary of the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District (“LMCD”) variance requirements and process that you may find helpful. However, it is just a guideline and is subject to change. All variance requests are subject to the procedures, requirements, and limitations of the LMCD Code and are specific to the request and characteristics of the site.
What is a Variance
A variance is a request to deviate from one or more of the requirements of the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District Code of Ordinances (“Code”). Section 1.07 of the Code outlines the variance process and requirements. A variance is a limited tool available to address unique situations where the strict application of the Code creates practical difficulties of the conditions unique to the property. The LMCD cannot grant a variance to allow something that is not otherwise allowed under the Code.
Eligibility for a Variance
A variance from the requirements of the Code can only be granted where practical difficulties occur or where necessary to provide access to persons with disabilities, and then only if granting the variance, with whatever conditions the LMCD Board of Directors (“Board”) may impose, does not adversely affect the health/ecology of the lake, the purposes of the Code, the public health, safety, and welfare, and reasonable access to or use of the Lake by the public and riparian owners.
The applicant must demonstrate the existence of sufficient practical difficulties to allow the granting of the requested variance. For the purposes of the Code, “practical difficulties” means one or more unique conditions of a property that prevent the property owner from using the Lake in a reasonable manner permitted by the Code. Practical difficulties only exist with respect to a particular property if the conditions preventing the proposed reasonable use of the property are unique to the property, were not created by the property owner, and are not based solely on economic considerations.
The process to request a variance starts with the submission of a complete application to the LMCD. Incomplete/invalid applications, or those that are not accompanied by the required application fee and escrow, will not be processed. The link to the variance application can be found on the LMCD website under “Applications” or specifically at this link. It is important for the applicant to set out in the application the practical difficulties that justify the requested variance.
Every variance is site specific and there may be instances where one or more neighboring owners apply as co-applicants mutually seeking a variance to ensure reasonable, safe, and equitable access to the Lake.
The following items are typically required as part of the variance application and site plan.
General Site Information
- Site address/PID/Location
- Property owner name
- Contact information
- Applicant (authorized agent relationship to property)
- Contact information
- Submit a digital version and hardcopy 11 inch x 17 inch site plan- drawings and inclusions must be to-scale
- Indicate North direction
- Extensions of property’s side site lines on both/all points on the property where they terminate at the shoreline
- Documented shoreline (929.4 ft OHW) and respective total measurement of lineal footage of shoreline
- Documented lines showing 50 ft, 100 ft, and 200 ft measurements into the lake from the 929.4 ft OHW NVGD
- Any utilities: environmental features such as wetlands, protected vegetation or spawning areas, etc.; unique characteristics of the dock use area; adjacent channels or lagoon areas; and other items relevant to the site. If located adjacent to or near a channel or other main navigation thoroughfare, include the dimensions of the channel or navigational area, including to the opposite shoreline, any navigational hazards, and any docks or structures.
Specific Site Information
- Measurements of existing dock structures, watercraft storage areas, and other structures
- Measurements of proposed dock structures, watercraft storage areas, and other structures
- Location and identifying label for watercraft storage for all boat storage units (BSUs)
- Dimensions of of all BSUs including length and width
- Setback measurements from both/all extended side site/property lines for docks, watercraft storage areas/BSUs, and other structures
- Length measurement from the 929.4 ft OHW of the dock including watercraft storage and other structures
- Abutting docks and other structures at adjacent properties indicating effect of the variance request including distance measurements and other relevant items
- Water level readings (if water depth is the basis of the variance request) to include first reach to 3 feet, 4 feet, and 5 feet from the 929.4 ft OHW along the continuous shoreline. Include the dates water depth measurements were taken. Water depths must be measured relative to the 929.4 ft OHW NVGD.
Process and Timeline
Once a completed application is submitted, the LMCD will begin processing. Anticipate up to 15 working days from the initial submission of the application to determine if the application is deemed complete or if more information is needed to start the next phase of the application review process. Please keep in mind it may take up to 60 days minimally and up to 120 days to process the application, depending on the complexity of the request. Typically only one meeting is scheduled for November and December. This does not include the time to process an EAW if needed.
The LMCD provides notice of a public hearing, which is published and mailed to owners within 350 feet of the subject property or 500 feet depending on the type of license if included in the application request. The applicant is required to obtain mailing labels from Hennepin County or Carver County for property owners within a 350-foot radius of the site. Labels are now available online by visiting https://gis.hennepin.us/locatenotify/default.aspx. The LMCD also coordinates the process and forwards the application to other public agencies for review and comment.
The Board receives the application along with a staff report, which includes additional information about the site and makes a recommendation about the requested variance for the Board to consider. Once the public hearing is conducted, the Board then discusses the application and directs the LMCD attorney to draft Findings of Fact and Order for either approval or denial of the request. The Findings of Fact and Order are typically brought back before the Board at a subsequent meeting for consideration of adoption. A copy of the adopted Findings of Fact and Order are then provided to the applicant. The applicant, and any subsequent purchaser of the property, is required to comply with the variance and any conditions placed on it.
Please contact the LMCD if you have questions.