Edina may become the first city in the metro area to hire a full-time employee whose only duties would be the start-to-finish supervision of residential teardowns and replacements.
That move follows increasing complaints from residents who say massive new homes are hugging lot lines, shading smaller dwellings and changing drainage patterns. Neighbors also say construction is ruining their quality of life by blocking driveways with equipment and creating noise even on weekends.
“We are trying to strike a balance that welcomes residential redevelopment, because it’s a big thing for our community, but we also want to make sure this is a quality place for those who live here,” City Manager Scott Neal said.
Neal’s recommendation is expected to go before the City Council on Tuesday.
Edina has been the Twin Cities’ epicenter for residential teardowns, with modest homes sometimes selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars for their lots alone. Last year, the city set a record with 100 teardowns. That number could be surpassed this year.
Neal said he believes Edina would be the first city in the area to have a job that would focus on managing residential teardowns and replacement. He said similar jobs exist in the northern suburbs of Chicago, which have long confronted the issue of teardowns and monster houses.
To fund the new position, which he estimated would cost $100,000 a year, Neal is suggesting to the City Council that it increase the cost of a demolition permit from about $200 to $1,500. With the number of demolition permits expected to reach 100 this year, that would more than cover the cost of the position.
The new position is part of a bigger redevelopment management plan Neal has drawn up that would kick in even before a demolition permit is issued.
Now, homeowners often discover a home on their block is going to be replaced when a developer’s sign pops up in the yard.
Under Neal’s plan, developers would be required to meet with neighbors and share their building plans. They also would have to submit to the city: proof of insurance; a $10,000 cash escrow or letter of credit; a soil investigation report; stormwater and erosion management and control plans; photos of the existing area; and proposed building plans.
“I think there will be developers and builders who will have concerns about it,” Neal said. “The heart of these recommendations is requiring builders to put in more time up front before they actually tear a house down. … It offers better quality-of-life protections to our existing residents, many of whom have lived here for many decades.”
When residents now have complaints or questions about construction, they call city departments ranging from planning to the police. With no single department or person designated to handle teardown issues, Neal said the city’s response has been inefficient and sometimes unsatisfactory. He thinks Edina can do better.
“We have passive enforcement — we come out if someone calls,” he said. “Now, we intend to create active enforcement. We will have someone who actively monitors redevelopment and actively enforces code provisions.”
Neal’s recommendations come as a city working group has been re-examining the city’s building code to see if it can be changed to better deal with large homes going up on relatively small lots.
The working group was formed after outrage over issues like construction of giant retaining walls that change lot levels and drainage patterns and a builder who removed trees on city land without permission. In one case, a house was built so close to property lines that the back yard can’t be reached without walking through a neighbor’s property.