Minneapolis City Council expects oversized crowd for teardown hearing

  • Article by: BILL MCAULIFFE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 19, 2014 - 10:54 PM

Measure imposed in southwest Minneapolis has energized both supporters and opponents.

A hearing on the controversial temporary halt to housing teardowns and rebuilds in southwest Minneapolis is expected to draw an overflow crowd of residents, Realtors, architects, builders and others Thursday.

On March 7, Council Member Linea Palmisano declared the moratorium, which could stop teardowns and rebuilds for a year in five neighborhoods where smaller, older houses are being frequently replaced by larger, new ones.

Palmisano said constituents she encountered in her run for office last year expressed grave concerns about construction disruption and zoning laws and enforcement, as well as larger issues such as housing affordability and what many see as the changing character of neighborhoods. The City Council’s Planning and Zoning Committee, however, will likely hear architects and builders criticize the moratorium for derailing a healthy local construction economy as well as the plans of families committed to buying new homes.

Committee chair Lisa Bender said she has also asked the city attorney to discuss how the city implements moratoriums. Many in the housing business have said they felt blindsided by the moratorium, which they said was imposed without discussion or advance notice. Palmisano has said that advance notice would have caused a rush on teardowns — the very thing she is trying to temper.

At least two of the five neighborhood associations in Palmisano’s ward — in Fulton and Lynnhurst — have taken positions opposed to the moratorium while supporting her aims in addressing construction issues. The Linden Hills Neighborhood Council is expected to take a position in a special meeting Monday.

The moratorium halts teardowns and rebuilds in areas zoned for single- and two-family housing.

Bender said she has already arranged for an overflow room for people attending the hearing, which is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. in Room 317 of City Hall.

“We’re expecting, given the amount of communication we’ve had about this, a pretty large crowd,” she said.

The moratorium is in the form of an ordinance. The committee could take any number of actions on it, including delaying, referring to another committee, or advancing the moratorium to the full council with a recommendation for or against. City Council President Barb Johnson, who is on the committee, has said she supports the moratorium.

The full council approved an interim moratorium March 7, but will reconsider after the current hearing process. The council could call off the moratorium in less than a year. The ordinance requires city planners to study issues surrounding teardowns for up to six months.

Since 1998 there have been 16 moratoriums authorized in Minneapolis, but only two have targeted single- and two-family housing.

The taxable value of all new construction in the city last year was $760 million, according to Scott Lindquist, the city’s manager of assessment services. Of that, Lindquist noted, $117 million was from one- to-three unit residential buildings, which are the focus of Palmisano’s moratorium.

Median home valuations increased citywide last year by 8 to 9 percent, Lindquist estimated. Those values in Linden Hills, Fulton and Lynnhurst rose about 13 percent. Kenny and Armatage saw jumps of about 10 percent.

Bill McAuliffe • 612-673-7646 Staff writer Eric Roper contributed to this report.

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