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New rules expected to replace teardown moratorium when City Council votes April 11

MinnPost photo by Karen Boros
The owner of this house on Xerxes Ave. is the first to apply for a release from the teardown moratorium in southwest Minneapolis.

The teardown and construction moratorium imposed on five southwest Minneapolis neighborhoods in early March is now expected to be canceled next week after the full City Council approves a new package of citywide work rules.

Those rules will require residential contractors and developers to sign a Construction Management Agreement with the city and to meet with neighborhood residents before beginning new construction or a major renovation. The plan also calls for an increase in enforcement of city building codes.

The construction moratorium was imposed March 7 by the City Council after many complaints about building-site problems and teardowns in the neighborhoods where cottage-sized homes have been replaced with larger, suburban-type houses.

“One of the challenges we heard loud and clear from the neighborhoods was that we weren’t informed and that we didn’t know what the schedule was,” said Doug Kress, director of development services for Minneapolis, who presented the plan to the council Zoning and Planning Committee Thursday.

Agreement to spell out relevant city codes

The Construction Management Agreement to be filed by developers and contractors will include their contact information and will spell out relevant city building codes, including those involving the storage of building materials, placement of dumpsters and the location of portable restrooms.

Contractors and developers will also be required to host a meeting with residents living within 300 feet of a construction site where a home will be torn down or substantially remodeled. Currently, if a residential property is going to be torn down, the builders are required to contact only the owners of the two adjacent houses.

The new rules will not allow neighbors to reject building, teardown or remodeling plans, but it will give them a mechanism to see that contractors and developers follow the city building codes.

Contractors and developers will further be asked to outline their work schedule and keep track of complaints they receive from neighbors. They will also be asked to note how the complaints were resolved.

Increased enforcement

“This is a citywide solution that we’re coming up with,” said Kress, who explained that the current plan divides code-enforcement duties among several different departments and limits what each department is allowed to enforce. 

Under the new plan, city workers from the Inspections Department, Zoning and Public Works, for example, will all be allowed to tag violations of all building codes. The cost of the increased enforcement has not yet been calculated.

“If you are someone who thumbs your nose at the city and says we are evil for enforcing our codes, there are other places to build and you should consider that,” said Council Member Lisa Goodman.

“The moratorium penalized the good guys and the bad guys,” said Nick Smaby of Choice Wood Company, who lives in the area now covered by the moratorium and has done numerous building and remodeling jobs there.

“I happen to be a builder who plays by the rules, competing with builders who don’t,” said Smaby.  “It’s less expensive to break the rules than it is to play by the rules.”

The current residential building and teardown moratorium will continue to be enforced until April 11, when the full City Council is to vote on the matter.

Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by John Reinan on 04/03/2014 - 02:39 pm.

    The picture with this story is one block from my house

    I’ve walked by it hundreds of times. And it’s a perfect illustration of why limiting teardowns was misguided. That home in the picture has been vacant for at least five years. In the summer, the lawn grows knee-high. It was built on soggy ground and the foundation is tilted at least 10 degrees. There is no way in hell anyone in their right mind would buy that house except to tear it down. And if it’s torn down and a new home is built, the neighborhood will be much better off.

    I commented on an earlier story on this topic that most of the problems could be solved if the city enforced existing rules. I’m delighted to see they’ve taken that sensible approach.

    If people want to live in the city of Minneapolis, we should not be erecting new barriers to them.

  2. Submitted by John Reinan on 04/03/2014 - 02:45 pm.

    P.S.

    I think this line in the story is unfortunate:

    “where cottage-sized homes have been replaced with larger, suburban-type houses.”

    Larger, yes. Suburban-type? I dispute that. People in Linden Hills use that term in a derogatory way. Your use of it strikes me as biased toward the NIMBY groups.

    I live in the neighborhood and have seen these homes go up over the last 10 years. Many of them are designed to look and feel like the large, two-story homes with porches that were built in Linden Hills 100 years ago.

    Succeeding generations of Linden Hills home tended to be smaller, it’s true. But there are plenty of large, foursquare, farmhouse-type homes in the neighborhood already. It’s not like people are putting up homes that are unlike anything the neighborhood has ever seen.

  3. Submitted by Scott Shaffer on 04/03/2014 - 03:39 pm.

    Good!

    I was a skeptic of the moratorium at first, but when I heard CM Palmisano explain the safety hazards and the damage to public infrastructure that was being caused by the reckless construction, she won me over.

    I’m glad that the new rules don’t ban the construction of big homes. People who use the “suburban-style” epithet don’t seem to see the real problem with many suburbs: their streets are hostile to pedestrians, cyclists, and other vulnerable street users. If these were suburban-style homes accompanied by huge suburban-style lots on wide, winding suburban-style streets with non-existent suburban-style sidewalks, then we’d have a problem.

    If you want to force all your neighbors to build and maintain their homes according to strict style guidelines, then you’d probably feel more at home in a planned-unit development in Woodbury.

  4. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 04/04/2014 - 12:43 pm.

    Wandering back in time and remembering and wondering …

    Are some of these returning folks from the suburbs, the children or grandchildren of their elders; grandparents who made the “White Flight from the city in the fifties ?

    Would be a most interesting statistic to establish…not to denigrate but to educate and revive the old fifties time capsule, whatever?

    Who will flee from whom this time around is the question…?

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