Mpls. City Council blocks waiver for France Av. apartments

  • Article by: ERIC ROPER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 4, 2012 - 10:41 AM

The 60-unit residential project in Linden Hills had won preliminary exemption from neighborhood moratorium restrictions.

The Minneapolis City Council reversed course Friday and put a halt to a project that nearly eked past a development moratorium in Linden Hills.

The city's zoning and planning committee had voted 4-2 recently to grant a waiver to the neighborhood's moratorium on large-scale developments to allow the 60-unit residential project on France Avenue and W. 45th Street. But on Friday, the full council voted 9-4 to deny it.

The debate centered on whether the project in question, France Avenue apartments, falls under the rules of the moratorium. Developers had submitted a proposal before the moratorium, but then resubmitted a new version when it was denied by the planning commission.

"We are not changing the rules. We are not switching horses mid-stream," said Council Member Betsy Hodges, who represents Linden Hills.

"The rules were in place when it started. The applicant was aware that those rules were in place when they started."

The Linden Hills neighborhood voted two weeks ago to recommend denying the waiver.

Friday's vote means the developers will have to wait until next March to resubmit their plans. Some believe the moratorium could be extended, however.

Council Member Gary Schiff, who advocated for the waiver, said the moratorium was being used "to stop a specific development. I think that's dirty."

"It's a terrible way for the city of Minneapolis to treat investors who come along [and] play by the rules," Schiff said.

Council President Barb Johnson, who also supported the waiver, said she believes moratoriums are a "clumsy" tool. She recalled another city-imposed moratorium earlier in her career that resulted in a legal settlement because a developer got caught in the middle.

"I've been burned on one of these before. And I don't want to get burned again," Johnson said.

Kurt Manley, with France Development LLC, criticized the decision. "This action should be very troubling to all business interests in Minneapolis," Manley said in a statement. "We will be reviewing all of our rights and options. ... This outcome really should not be allowed to stand."

Eric Roper • 612-673-1732

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