Minneapolis planners are scaling back some of their most far-reaching density goals for the city’s future development after facing criticism over a plan to allow fourplexes in every neighborhood.
A new draft of the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan would change residential zoning to allow for housing up to three units, and four-unit buildings on larger lots in those areas, according to city documents obtained by the Star Tribune.
City planning staff are still working on a revised version of the plan. This week, they met with Mayor Jacob Frey and several council members to get their feedback on the proposed revisions, and will meet with more elected officials ahead of the planned late September release of the new draft.
The city has also hired Goff Public, a consulting firm, to help “reframe the narrative” surrounding the plan, including holding a news conference with “supportive Council Members” and “third-party validators” that will accompany the revised version, according to city documents. The city has approved up to $80,000 in billable hours and expenses to Goff, according to the contract signed in July.
The comprehensive plan is an expansive list of goals for the city, including more affordable housing, improved transportation, racial equity and resilience to climate change. This collection of aspirations is designed to create a strategic vision for Minneapolis over the next two decades.
Since details of the first draft became public this spring, the city has engaged in a contentious debate over the proposal to upzone the city to allow for four-unit dwellings. Residents submitted thousands of public comments and spoke up at dozens of town-hall style meetings. Red lawn signs popped up in yards accusing the city of planning to “bulldoze” neighborhoods.
The draft pulls back somewhat from the original proposal to allow fourplexes in residential areas, though it still creates a pathway for more multiunit housing in areas now dominated by single-family homes.
Council Member Steve Fletcher, who’s been briefed on the new working plan, said he was impressed with how it’s changed to better align with community feedback.
“We’re not going to meet everyone’s needs,” Fletcher said Friday. “But we’re going to do our best. And I actually think this is a step in the right direction.”
Some homeowners also raised concerns about the plan’s call for dense development in transit corridors, even in the surrounding blocks. The working draft lowers the allowable density in these areas, including limiting the height of buildings from three stories to two and a half.
City staff are also working on responding to council members’ requests for “inclusionary zoning,” which requires developers to set aside a percentage of rental units for below-market rates, therefore bringing more affordable housing to the city.
In response to an interview request with city staff, city spokeswoman Sarah McKenzie said the second draft of the plan has not been finalized.
“A redlined version of the draft highlighting changes informed by public comments will be posted online as planned by the end of September,” she said in an e-mailed statement.
Referring to the hiring of Goff, City Council Member Linea Palmisano said she understands the value of more communication for what she called “the most aggressive rezoning plan in North America.” But Palmisano, who’s been critical of the density proposals in the first version of the 2040 plan, said the policies, not the delivery, were the problem.
“I appreciate the need for communications,” she said. “But I’ve informed long-range planning that if they think that’s why version one didn’t go well, that that’s their biggest blind spot of all.”
Palmisano would not comment on the new working plan, calling it “a work in progress.”
In a statement Friday, Frey also emphasized that city officials are still providing feedback for “an evolving plan.”
“I’m confident that we can arrive at a workable solution,” Frey said.