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Continued: 'Granny flats:' A fix for changing housing needs, or step toward urban blight?

  • Article by: KEVIN DUCHSCHERE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 19, 2014 - 11:40 PM

Unknown consequences

The idea of using granny flats in St. Anthony Park emerged last year out of a district council effort to save energy and reduce greenhouse gases. A subcommittee noted that the number of area homes with just one resident was increasing, and thought that ADUs could reduce per capita energy usage.

“ADUs aren’t going to solve it, changing light bulbs won’t solve it, driving an energy efficient car won’t solve it, but they’ll all help,” said Michael Russelle, a soil scientist who sits on the district council.

Meetings last year drew mostly supporters of the idea. In January local architects displayed attractive renderings showing how ADUs might fit into existing lots. But it was the growing (and mistaken, officials said) perception that the district council was about to bless ADUs that drove the heavy turnout on April 3.

Broussard tried to reassure skeptics that the proposal would require owners of ADUs to live on the property, that all accessory buildings (including garages and sheds) on one lot could cover no more than 1,000 square feet, and that the floor area of an ADU could be no bigger than 950 square feet.

Then came the questions: How do you enforce the regulations? Who’s asking for this? Won’t trees have to come down to make room? Where will people park? Won’t my taxes go up? Will they cheapen the look of the neighborhood?

A few said that ADUs would usher in more diversity, build a more vibrant neighborhood and boost area merchants.

“We want a mix of young and old living here,” said resident Jon Schumacher. “We don’t want to see people leaving St. Anthony Park because they can’t find a place to live here.”

But Schumacher and others with similar views were outnumbered by residents such as Glen Skovholt, a former Honeywell executive and Metropolitan Council member who urged caution.

“This is a long-term decision that’s going to last for many years, and I don’t think we have any idea as to the consequences,” he said.

After two hours of debate, the district council’s land use committee tabled a vote on the proposal. Talk turned instead toward forming a working group for more study over the next year and to get a better handle on where people stand.

“We’re aiming for balance, and people that are willing to explore the questions with each other and lay out the issues more completely,” Sparks said.

 

Kevin Duchschere • 651-925-5035

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