Minneapolis' Linden Hills pushes to limit building heights

  • Article by: ERIC ROPER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 9, 2013 - 5:33 AM

Residents want to preserve the character of the neighborhood.

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Betsy Hodges

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

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A Minneapolis neighborhood’s fight to limit the size of new development projects faces a key vote at City Hall Monday.

The height of new buildings in Linden Hills, a southwestern neighborhood bordering Edina, is a key concern of residents who have ­submitted an area plan for city approval. The plan was initiated after two projects — featuring 40 and 60 residential units respectively — raised the ire of local activists who worried about the changing character of the neighborhood near Lake Harriet.

Council Member Betsy Hodges, who represents the area, responded in 2012 with a development moratorium that expired this March. Both of the projects in question were scaled down and one has completed ­necessary city approvals.

Reviewing the new Linden Hills plan for future development, the city Planning Commission last week voted to change some key height specifications.

Residents initially drafted a plan that limited new mixed-use buildings along commercial areas to a maximum height of three stories. ­Residential buildings were limited to 35 feet. Under pressure from city ­officials, it was changed to 44 feet for all buildings — commercial and residential — in three areas and 50 feet at 44th Street West and France Avenue.

The plan says this would allow for three-or four-story buildings, but city staff said it is unlikely for a mixed-use building to be four stories within 44 feet.

Planning commissioners therefore recommended stripping out height limitations as expressed in feet, saying it was overly prescriptive and not the appropriate method to limit height. That would allow most buildings in the Linden Hills commercial areas to reach up to four stories, depending on zoning.

Zoning in the area generally only allows for three-or four-story buildings, though developers can request permits to exceed those restrictions.

Residents balked at the change in a letter to city officials, arguing that excessive height in the two developments was what spurred the plan’s creation.

“Without the 44 foot ­language to guide future development, we’re back to where we started with all parties struggling with each other,” the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council wrote.

Some commissioners also expressed concern at their Dec. 2 meeting about whether the plan as a whole featured enough density, a key issue in neighborhoods across Minneapolis as city officials strive to grow the population.

“If we’re going to grow sustainably as a city, density has to go here somewhere,” said Commissioner Allisa Luepke-Pier. “And all I see is a little bit of a concession toward it.”

The city’s zoning and planning committee will take action Monday morning, with final council approval expected later in the week. The chair of the committee, Council Member Gary Schiff, abstained from the planning commission vote.

 

Eric Roper • 612-673-1732

Twitter: @StribRoper

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