Editorial counterpoint: Teardown moratorium is still on, and it's helping

  • Article by: LINEA PALMISANO
  • Updated: April 1, 2014 - 6:35 PM

News coverage fostered confusion, while editorial missed the point: This action will knit people together.

 

It is disappointing that the same Star Tribune Editorial Board that benefits from the biggest teardown in the city — the Vikings stadium — did not reach out to me for comment before endorsing the continuation of unchecked teardown issues around southwest Minneapolis (“Halting teardowns is the wrong approach,” March 31). In addition, the newspaper’s erroneous reporting that the last City Council committee session “paused the moratorium” stirred much confusion. Let me set the record straight: It is still in effect, and will be so until we identify the best way to move forward.

Taking on this issue of troubling construction practices is no “rookie” error. This action received unanimous support from the City Council, and my senior colleagues continue to assist me on this very important issue. I’m working hard for the residents of these neighborhoods and for the future of our city. The past three weeks have brought groups of developers, professional trade groups and residents into new levels of agreement. The action also has spurred rapid innovation within our city departments to work together in new ways.

On issues ranging from site management to zoning standards and environmental sustainability, we’ve hit some major snags as we work to knit new single-family housing into our community. In our part of the city, negative impacts from bad construction practices are having real effects on residents. We have families being evacuated from their homes late at night by firefighters due to the impacts of intense construction around them. Sometimes these effects are temporary, but we have scores of residents who are affected long after the temporary nuisances subside. Permanent environmental damage, flooded basements and a decrease in the value of their own assets only make the increased taxes they incur feel more personal. Contrary to what naysayers might assert, I have a great deal of respect for property rights. And it’s time to respect everyone’s property rights, not just those for properties that are under construction.

I recognize that there is a cost to a moratorium, but I do believe there’s a greater cost to maintaining the status quo. During this construction “pause,” there still are 80 active construction sites. The massing of new construction calculates at more than double the square footage that the Editorial Board suggested, and is most often on small lots.

We are a community that welcomes new neighbors with plants and good cheer. That is increasingly difficult as the preamble to meeting our new neighbors comes at such a high cost to the surrounding environment.

We all agree that there are problems here, yet folks insist that these are the city’s problems to address. But this belongs to all of us, and it will not be solved solely through more regulation. We won’t increase our city’s tax base if we accept massive change only in these five neighborhoods while leaving the other 78 neighborhoods untouched.

Moratoria are not to be used lightly, but they are a tool available to the City Council that can be narrowly tailored to a specific area to both protect a planning study and the health, safety, and well-being of people who live within it. Furthermore, springing into action on it prevents a rush on the behavior we are trying to modify with its use. This is especially important when you need reform right away.

We cannot address this dilemma by simply importing the best practices of our neighbor Edina. That may solve our problems within the 13th Ward, but it would detract from development and investment in housing stock across the city.

We finally have everyone at the table for the conversation we need to have, and we have a recovering housing market. The Editorial Board missed an opportunity to examine the greater long-term potential of what we can achieve through this temporary pause. Together, we can achieve a Minneapolis that attracts housing investment across our city, within and beyond these five neighborhoods. We can work together with people who come to build in our community, and be more amenable to the changes they may bring. I know this because they are now sitting at the table.

 

Linea Palmisano is a member of the Minneapolis City Council who represents the 13th Ward.

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