The moratorium on development in Minneapolis’ Linden Hills neighborhood will stay in place.
The Minneapolis City Council on Friday reversed an earlier committee vote to grant a waiver that would have allowed a developer to go forward with plans for a 60-unit building in the 4400 block of France Avenue South.
On Thursday, the Zoning and Planning Committee approved the waiver 4-to-2.
The plan to grant the waiver kept those four votes, but the losing side in committee won the remaining seven council votes, prevailing 9-to-4 to deny the waiver.
Erik Nilsson, of the Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office, told council members Thursday that there were only two valid reasons for granting a moratorium waiver: “substantial hardship” to the developer or a factor that would “unduly affect the integrity of the planning process” under way in the neighborhood.
“One of the criteria is not met,” said Council Member Betsy Hodges, who represents the Linden Hills neighborhood and opposed granting a waiver. She told council members that allowing the development to go forward during a moratorium would be “a mistake.”
The moratorium was approved in November to give neighborhood organizations time to create a Small Area Plan, which would define what can and cannot be built in the area.
“The developer should have an opportunity to be heard because he started this project before the moratorium was in place,” said Council Member Gary Schiff, who chairs the Zoning and Planning Committee.
The developer, Scott Carlston of Eden Prairie, had submitted plans for the apartment building to the Planning Commission before the moratorium. The Planning Commission, which serves as an advisory board to the City Council, rejected the plan.
Carlston then started the appeal process but dropped out, knowing the moratorium was going to be approved.
Schiff called the moratorium a “clear hardship” for the developer and said he thought denying the wavier was “dirty.”
“I won’t be part of it,” he added.
“We gave our word. That’s a promise,” said Council Member Meg Tuthill, who opposed the waiver. “Waiting another six months is not going to make much difference [to the developer].”
One by one, council members came forward to speak in support of maintaining the moratorium.
“The simplest, straightest line for me is that this is covered by the moratorium,” said Council Member Don Samuels. “The community has spoken against the waiver. It’s pretty simple to me.”
“This is a good reminder of how carefully we need to consider our votes on moratoriums,” said Council Member Elizabeth Glidden, who noted that she did not think the delay would meet the “substantial hardship” requirement. She did not support the waiver.
“A moratorium is a clumsy tool,” said Council President Barb Johnson, who had experienced a moratorium on convenience stores in her north Minneapolis ward early in her career. In that case, a developer sued the city and won.
“We’ve been burned over one of these before, and I don’t want to get burned again,” said Johnson, who voted in favor of the waiver.
The four voting in favor of the waiver were Council Members Johnson, Schiff, Kevin Reich and Lisa Goodman.
Committee to reorganize
When Mayor R.T. Rybak suggested reorganizing the Regulatory Services Department during his budget address, he said $300,000 to $400,000 could be saved by eliminating three management jobs and moving some functions to other departments.
Council President Barb Johnson has now appointed a committee of council members and city staff to plan for the re-organization. The Ccmmittee will be chaired by Council Member Robert Lilligren, with City Coordinator Paul Aasen as the lead staff member.
Taxicab fare rates frozen
Last year, the City Council approved a 25-cent increase in taxicab fares to $2.75 a mile, but the cab companies mostly stayed at the $2.50 rate.
On Friday, the council signed off on a rate freeze.
“I believe the meter rate freeze will be a good thing for the cab industry and for the riding public,” Grant Wilson, the city’s manager of business licenses, said Thursday. In keeping the current rates, Minneapolis stays even with rates at the airport and in St. Paul.
“Most of the taxicab companies are self-regulating themselves and not going with the higher rates,” said Council Member Elizabeth Glidden, who chairs the Regulatory, Energy and Environment Committee, which oversees the rates.