The puck stops at City Hall.
The Minneapolis Zoning Board of Adjustment on Thursday rejected a south Minneapolis homeowner’s appeal for a front-yard hockey rink.
“I’m very disappointed,” said Phil Malkerson, who appeared before the board accompanied by his wife and three children, ages 9,7 and 4.
Malkerson put up the winter rink in the front yard of his corner lot at 47th Street and Dupont Avenue S. because it wouldn’t fit among the towering oaks in his backyard.
After a neighbor complained, city officials informed Malkerson that the rink was too close to his lot line. He either had to take it down or obtain a variance from the 25-foot setback.
The board voted 5-3 to follow a staff recommendation and reject Malkerson’s request for a variance. Board members said they weren’t voting against hockey rinks, just the location of this one in a front yard.
Rob Salmon, who lives across the street from the Malkersons, was pleased with the decision. “We have laws,” he said. “And we should follow the laws.”
For Salmon, the rink was a violation of zoning codes that exist to preserve the integrity and aesthetics of a neighborhood. It not only violated the setback requirements, but the unpainted boards ringing it are an eyesore, Salmon said in a previous interview.
Malkerson came to Thursday’s board meeting offering an olive branch of sorts. He suggested city officials grant the variance provided he meet certain conditions. For example, the hockey boards would be a uniform height that would be no higher than 36 inches and they would be painted white to blend in with the snow. He said the rink would not go up earlier than Nov. 15 and would be taken down by April 15.
Several neighbors who stepped up to the microphone argued that the rink was a “beautiful idea” that allowed young kids to play outside their front doors and created a sense of community. A public ice rink about a mile away at Lynnhurst Park is too far for young kids to go to alone, they said. Others talked about the joy of seeing neighborhood kids playing a pickup game rather than being limited to structured activities.
“It hearkens back to my childhood,” said Scott Schroepfer, who lives nearby. “I think it’s fabulous.”
Salmon, who was joined by three neighbors who also opposed the variance, argued the rink — albeit a smaller one — could go up next year in Malkerson’s backyard, where it would meet the city’s zoning code.
“I’m not anti-kid,” Salmon said after the vote.
Deflated by the board vote, Malkerson said it’s unlikely he’ll build a rink in his backyard, because it would be too small. “It would be worthless,” he said.