A proposal to block development in the University of Minnesota’s Dinkytown area failed Friday on a tie vote at the Minneapolis City Council.

Council Member Diane Hofstede introduced the development moratorium for the four-block Dinkytown business district after the council gave the green light to a controversial plan to build a 140-unit mixed-use building on 5th Street.

The moratorium would have effectively blocked just one proposed project: a 70-unit apartment complex on 4th Street, Dinkytown’s main drag. That project, proposed by developer Kelly Doran, must still be approved by the council before moving forward.

Hofstede said she pushed for the moratorium because the neighborhood is working on two plans to guide future development in both the smaller Dinkytown area and the broader Marcy-Holmes neighborhood.

Those area plans were prompted by Opus Group’s development on 5th Street, which spurred a “Save Dinkytown” movement to preserve the character of the neighborhood.

“The purpose of [the moratorium] is not to protect surface parking lots; I want to make that clear,” Hofstede said. “The purpose of it is to protect the planning process.”

Council Member Gary Schiff said it was clear that the moratorium was specifically targeting the new Doran project.

“I don’t think we should use moratoriums to stop individual developments from coming forward,” said Schiff, chair of the city’s zoning and planning committee.

Council Member Cam Gordon, who supported the moratorium, said the “Save Dinkytown” movement convinced him that development should be slowed so the community can reach a consensus. “I have concerns that if the free market is making all the decisions here, that more and more people will be concerned,” Gordon said.

The final vote on the moratorium was tied 6-6, which means it automatically failed. The 13th member of the council, Lisa Goodman, was away on city business.

Voting in favor were Council Members Hofstede, Gordon, Kevin Reich, Sandy Colvin Roy, Meg Tuthill and Barb Johnson. The measure was opposed by Council Members Schiff, Betsy Hodges, Don Samuels, Robert Lilligren, John Quincy and Elizabeth Glidden.

Moratoriums are rare

Development moratoriums are exceedingly rare, but Hofstede has already proposed another one. This one would block development in the Nicollet Island-East Bank neighborhood.

Hofstede is locked in a tight re-election fight against challenger Jacob Frey.

In a statement, Frey noted that the council’s vote was a “big break” from the normal practice of following the lead of the home ward council member on development decisions.

“Hail Mary moratoriums on all development are rarely a good idea,” Frey said. “Here, we were forced to use a sledgehammer when we should have started early and chiseled out a better result.”

Deciding Dinkytown’s fate

Doran said he looks forward to working with the neighborhood and Dinkytown Business Association to formulate a plan that everyone can agree on. He hopes to begin construction in about one year.

“In my opinion, I think if you have an objective view of Dinkytown and you really go down and walk around the area and look behind the buildings, not just on the streets, that that area is in need of reinvestment,” Doran said.

Kristen Eide-Tollefson, a leader of the “Save Dinkytown” movement whose business, the Bookhouse, was displaced by the Opus project, said the Doran proposal “is going to determine the fate of Dinkytown.”

“It’s unfortunate that we won’t be able to finish the [planning] process before we become embroiled in another controversial project,” Eide-Tollefson said.

A public forum on the small-area plan — which will guide future development in Dinkytown — will be held at 6 p.m. Sept. 9 at the Varsity Theater.