A moratorium on building new houses in the southwest Minneapolis would be lifted next week under a deal announced today. Minneapolis City Council Member Linea Palmisano has brokered a compromise that would end the moratorium she sponsored after receiving a barrage of complains from five neighborhoods in her district.
Under the proposed deal, which the council's Zoning & Planning Committee approved today, the city would lift the moratorium and begin to issue new demolition and construction permits in the five affected neighborhoods on April 11, if the full council votes to do so.
In exchange for restarting the unprecedented construction boom, developers would agree to a 25-point construction management agreement designed to address complaints about inconsiderate and illegal construction practices.
The City Council enacted the so-called tear-down moratorium less than a month ago. Since then, contractors, architects and real estate agents have vigorously pushed for its repeal.
Two neighborhood groups in areas affected by the moratorium also came out against it, and more than 1,000 people signed an online petition opposing it. At a morning public hearing before the deal was announced, attorney Jonathan Mack warned the City Council the moratorium would depress property values.
"The real estate market is a china shop, and this measure is a bull," Mack said.
The outpouring of opposition didn't surprise Palmisano.
"What I was pleasantly surprised by was almost every single angry e-mail or angry phone call that we got, those people did acknowledge there was a problem," she said.
As Palmisano sees it, the problem is concentrated in the upscale neighborhoods of Linden Hills and Lynnhurst and the up-and-coming areas of Fulton, Armatage and Kenny, home to an unprecedented building boom. Neighbors complained about oversized homes, construction noise and debris in the area, where 60 new houses were under construction last year.
The unprecedented building boom led to unbearable levels of noise, illegally parked dumpsters, and drainage problems, neighbors say.
Palmisano doubts she could have convinced builders to comply without the construction agreement if the moratorium had not been in place.
Nick Smaby, owner of the Choice Wood remodeling company, agreed.
"Even though I firmly believe the moratorium was the blunt instrument, overkill, all of that, I think it called attention to some problems that needed some attending to," he said.
The Builder's Association of the Twin Cities supports the compromise. But its president said the group would have gladly come to the table without a moratorium.
As part of the compromise, the city of Minneapolis will also hire additional personnel to enforce zoning rules and the construction management agreement.
But today's compromise won't please everyone. Some people say the new houses are too big, cast shadows across nearby yards and with designs like homes in the suburbs do not fit the character of their neighborhoods.
"I moved into a charming, historic neighborhood and the basic fabric and character of the neighborhood is being rapidly transformed," said Linden Hills resident Valerie Maher, who spoke in support of the moratorium at the hearing. "My neighborhood's under attack from swarms of developers who just want to rape and pillage our neighborhood for money."
The City Council will consider changes to the zoning code later this summer, like whether to address the size of houses.
Now that the moratorium is likely to be lifted next week, Fulton neighborhood resident Sally Mars worries what will happen next. Though she called Palmisano brave for sponsoring the temporary moratorium, Mars fears it may make the problems neighbors complain about worse when it expires.
"The builders, developers, realtors and architects who are concerned about greater restrictions in southwest subsequent to the revised building codes will be on a building frenzy in the interim," she said.
Map: Teardowns in Minneapolis in 2013
Small red dots indicate teardowns in Ward 13. Yellow dots show teardowns elsewhere in the city. Data courtesy the city of Minneapolis