Administrative Approval of Septic Variances


Over the last few years, the City has had several properties with failing septic systems needing to request a variance from the City Council from the City’s septic setback requirements. Often these variances requests are time sensitive and the City, applicant, and other regulatory agencies agree that the variance must be granted to allow continued use of the property in an environmentally responsible manner. Staff is proposing that the Code be amended to allow the administrative approval of deviations from Chapter 19’s septic system setbacks in certain cases to expedite the review and approval of septic system variances.


There are number of large lot septic properties in the southern portion of the City where the majority of the property meets the Chapter 19 and Chapter 20 criteria for a bluff. It has been the City’s experience that when the septic systems on these properties fail there is not always a suitable alternate location available. In these cases, the property owner is required to seek a variance; however, since many of the applicable standards are located in Chapter 19, there is not a specified variance process. Staff’s practice has been to utilize the framework provided in Chapter 20 and require the variance to appear before the City Council for a final determination.

Due to the fact that problems with septic systems are often discovered upon sale of the home, the 60-day timeframe required by the variance process places a significant burden on both the current and future homeowner.  Since septic systems are a necessary component of a home without access to the City’s sanitary sewer system and since their placement is dictated by soil, slope, and other design concerns, the City and other regulatory agencies are often in agreement with the applicant that the requested variance is necessary.

For these reasons, staff is proposing to amend Chapter 19 to allow the City’s Building Official to approve deviations from the Chapter 19 setbacks in situations where there are no viable alternate locations and the system meets all other requirements. Staff is also proposing that the City be allowed to place conditions on these approvals to mitigate the impact of the reduced setbacks, and that a formal variance procedure be established for situations not meeting the criteria for an administrative approval.

The following section of the Chanhassen City Code is subject to changes:

  • Chapter 19, Article IV, Subsurface Sewer Treatment Systems 

Get More Information 

Click on the meeting date link in the schedule below to view the agenda and packet items for that meeting.


Date Meeting Type Action
December 7, 2020 City Council Approved