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

The moratorium in several neighborhoods is expected to be canceled after the full City Council OKs a new package of citywide work rules.

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

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.

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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.