The Committee makes recommendations and informs residents on residential and commercial development. We review variance applications and construction site plans, make recommendations on problem properties, support transit-oriented land use, and work with government officials to positively impact land use decisions. If you have an issue you’d like to bring to the Committee, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Everyone is welcome to attend our meetings. If you'd like to be on our distribution list, please email email@example.com. You'll receive the agenda and supporting documents before each monthly meeting. If you are interested in joining the Committee, you’ll need to attend three meetings to become a voting member.
Current Land Use Committee Topics
Our next meeting is scheduled for Monday, August 21. We have two primary agenda items.
There is some interest among residents and city staff to initiate a zoning study for Marshall Avenue from Snelling to the river. The current zoning in that area is inconsistent, and the uses are widely varied. Closer to Snelling, there are potential development opportunities that could bring higher density to the area, but in other stretches there are older historic homes that some feel should be protected. We'll host an interested neighbor who will raise some of the issues, and city staff who can inform us about the zoning study process and potential timeline.
Rental Rehabilitation Loan Program
The City has initiated a program to provide zero-interest loans to owners of small-scale rental properties located in specifically-identified lower-income areas of the city (including some in Union Park -- see the map below). There is $750,000 available in this program, the goal of which is to preserve Saint Paul’s stock of occupied affordable rental housing by providing property owners with funds to increase the livability and curb appeal of their properties. We're hosting city staff to tell us more about this program and to work together to identify qualified potential applicants. You can read more about this new program here.Click on map to enlarge.
Recent Land Use Topics
1849 Portland Avenue apartment unit proposal
The property owner of the five-unit multi-family unit at 1849 Portland Avenue proposed converting a 1000 square foot storage space into a four-bedroom unit. The owner needed a lot size variance as per the requirement of having 1500 square feet of lot per unit. As part of the plan, the property owner would have added two additional parking spots for the building off the alley.
Because of the timing of the Board of Zoning Appeals hearing, our Committee had to review this issue somewhat prematurely. At the time, the Committee was unaware of resident complaints, and recommended approval of the variance in the interest of providing more quality housing in the community.
However, since receiving notification of the variance application, numerous residents submitted letters in opposition to the variance request, and the city's staff report recommended denial of the variance. Accordingly, the Board of Zoning Appeals denied the variance, which disallowed the additional unit.
If you have questions about this item, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
1813 Dayton Avenue addition proposal
The owner of 1813 Dayton Avenue proposed expanding the upper unit of an existing duplex by adding a dormer to the attic space on the west side to create a two-floor, four-bedroom dwelling unit. The side-yard setback required for the duplex is 9 feet, but the existing structure doesn't meet today's standards. By expanding the duplex vertically, the applicant is required to meet the side-yard setback for the dormer addition, requiring a side yard setback variance of 3.9 feet from the west property line.
Some neighbors were concerned about the enlarged upper unit potentially inviting over-occupancy (beyond the four unrelated adults allowed to live in the unit). The Board of Zoning Appeals vote was mixed, and there were not enough members voting in favor to grant the variance. Although the Board was willing to reconsider the issue with the full membership, the owner withdrew the variance request.
The Starbucks drive-through on the southeast corner of Snelling and Marshall is now open. There have been issues with vehicles backing up onto Marshall, and sometimes onto Snelling. These queueing vehicles are obstructing the sidewalk, bike lane, and traffic lanes. Vehicles have also been taking illegal left turns out of the lot onto Marshall, and have generally had a difficult time navigating near the entrance/exit on Marshall.
Union Park staff met with representatives from Starbucks and the city in June to discuss options to improve the situation. Some proposed solutions included better protection for the bike lane including bollards, green paint, and/or a concrete curb or divider. Additional potential improvements included creating a second lane for queueing, extending the queueing lane within the site, adding additional street parking on Marshall, and better designing Marshall to prohibit left-hand turns out.
The committee recommended that the above solutions be pursued to insure that Starbucks avoids right-of-way obstructions per its obligation in its Conditional Use Permit and approved Site Plan. The committee sent a resolution to the City supporting the closure of the Starbucks drive through unless and until the obstructions of the adjacent right-of-way are removed.
In response, the City has promised to install bollards to protect the bike lane, and has indicated that it would require Starbucks to provide traffic control on site from 7 am - 9 am to insure that the traffic lane, bike lane, and sidewalk are not obstructed.
1984 Marshall Redevelopment Proposal
The property owner of 1984 Marshall Avenue, at the corner of Marshall and Moore, is proposing to replace the current single family home on the lot with a 10-unit apartment building. The house currently on the parcel is a student rental. The parcel is zoned RM2, which would allow for an apartment buildling, but the property owner will be applying for a variance to the lot size requirement to accommodate the apartment building and parking structure. The owner has some creative proposals to accommodate parking on the site as well, which may require city approval.
The property owner attended the June 19 meeting to discuss his plans and answer questions. The committee expressed some concern over the project, specifically over whether the other neighbors on the block are supportive, whether the building will fit the character of the block, and whether the potential renters will be respectful neighbors. The owner committed to further working with the committee and neighborhood on the process moving forward.
Sustain Ward 3 Presentation on Ford Site Development Plan
A representative from the “Sustain Ward 3” group gave a brief presentation related to the Ford Site development plan. “Sustain Ward 3” is a Mac-Groveland based group that describes itself as “a pro-active group supporting environmental, fiscal, and social sustainability in the City's plan for the site.”
The representative stated that it is their goal to work with the city to get the best possible outcome for the site, in terms of benefits to the community. He expressed an interest in getting support and input from neighborhoods outside of Highland Park because the project will affect those neighborhoods as well. When asked what type of support the group is looking for the representative stated that they are seeking help in getting the word out on the project and input or help for future events. You can learn more about the group at their website.
You can find out more about the proposed development at the Ford Site on the city’s website for the project.
St. Anthony/Fry Site Development Plan
The landowner of the vacant lot at the northeast corner of St. Anthony Avenue and Fry Street has proposed the construction of two new duplexes. In the southern duplex (phase one of the project), which faces St. Anthony, each unit would have 5 bedrooms, 4 baths, and a 2-car tuck under garage. One of these would be owner occupied by the current landowner. In the northern duplex (phase two), which faces Fry, each unit would have 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and a 2-car tuck under garage. (See site plan to the left.)
The project would require zoning variances for the front, rear, and side yard setbacks. The property owner explained that pushing the buildings closer to the sidewalk would allow for a more protected children's play area and more efficient use of the space overall.
At the May meeting, the committee discussed the project and heard a presentation from the landowner. The committee then voted unanimously to recommend approval of the variances, allowing for construction of two duplexes near the property lines of the parcel as proposed in the site plan.
The Board of Zoning Appeals voted unanimously to grant the variances.
1400 Selby Building Demolition and Replacement
The owner of the storage facility at 1400 Selby Avenue has proposed the demolition of two existing structures on the property to be replaced by a new larger Five Star Storage building (see image on left). The project is valued at $4.7 million. The committee reviewed the site plan and delegated staff to take part in the site plan review meeting taking place at the city on June 6.
Saint Paul Short Term Rental Ordinance
At the May meeting, the committee reviewed the short-term rental regulation proposal by the City. The proposal seeks to adopt rules and regulations surrounding short-term rentals, such as Airbnb and VRBO, defined as “a dwelling unit, bedroom, or couch rented for a period of less than 30 consecutive days, with or without the owner present.”
While the City believes there is a need to regulate short-term rental uses, these uses currently operate throughout the City with relatively few complaints or calls to police. The City plans to regulate short-term rentals through licensing, fire certificate of occupancy inspection, and zoning.
With licensing, the city will require both the hosting platform and the individual to have a valid license to rent short term. The license for individuals is expected to cost around $100 per year to cover administrative costs. Rentals operating without the required license will be requested to be removed from the hosting platform, and the person offering the rental may receive a citation.
The fire certificate of occupancy inspection will require that non-owner occupied dwellings undergo a fire inspection and obtain a certificate before they are rented.
Finally, the zoning update will seek to limit the maximum number of guests allowed in a short-term rental, ranging from a maximum of 4 guest when the host is off-site, down to 1 guest when the dwelling is already housing three adults.
After a presentation from a city official from the Department of Safety and Inspections, the committee discussed the proposal and voted to recommend the ordinance changes and the process moving forward.
451 Fairview Avenue N Zoning Variance
The property owner of 451 Fariview Avenue N is proposing to convert ground-floor commerical space into two one-bedroom units. The building is currently an 18-unit residential apartment building with 1,350 square feet of vacant commercial space located on the ground floor of the northwest part of the building.
The property is located in a RM2 multiple family residential zoning district which requires a minimum of square feet of land per dwelling unit. The lot size is smaller than required, so the owner was seeking a variance.
At the April meeting, the Committee made a recommendation in support of the variance on the condition that the property owner encourage new tenants to use non-motorized/public transportation and make improvements to the exterior of the property, including landscaping, shielding the trash and recycling containers, and lighting improvements. The variance was approved by the board of zoning appeals, which adopted our recommendations on bike parking and property improvements as part of the variance.
304-308 Snelling Development Proposal
On March 20, the Committee reviewed draft buildling design documents for a development at 304-308 Snelling and the adjacent vacant residential property facing Carroll Avenue. (See image to the left.)
The developer is proposing demolition of the two existing structures on the property, and plans a new building with about 60 market-rate apartments with underground and first floor parking (60-70 spaces) and no retail. The total height would be six stories at Snelling, but would be set back significantly from the residences behind on Carroll.
Since the parcel is slated to be rezoned T3 (as part of the South Snelling Zoning Study), the project likely would not need any variances or conditional use permits. At the February committee meeting, many members encouraged the architect to consider incorporating retail space into the project.
South Snelling Zoning Study
City planners attended our November meeting to discuss the South Snelling Zoning Study, which proposes changed zoning along Snelling Avenue from I-94 to Ford Parkway, and for 1/4 mile along major streets crossing Snelling.
Among other things, the study proposes changing most of the zoning along Snelling from I-94 to Selby to T3 zoning (which is the same as the Vintage/Whole Foods project) allowing for more mixed uses at greater density. It also proposes changing the zoning for the three blocks of Selby west of Snelling to T2 zoning, allowing for more commercial and mixed uses.
The City Council's final public hearing on rezoning will take place on September 6. Questions regarding the zoning changes or public hearing can be addressed to Tony Johnson at 651-266-6620 or email@example.com.
The UPDC Board passed resolutions supporting the City's process of rezoning these areas.
Minnesota Alternatives Building
Minnesota Alternatives has leased the office space in the building at 1650 Carroll Avenue for an outpatient clinic for adults who experience alcohol and/or substance abuse issues. They intend to host clients for both individual and group counseling during day and evening hours. The building owner has assured them that they will have at least 10-12 off-street parking spots for their use.
Minnesota Alternatives reached out to neighbors to address issues, and presented at our October Committee meeting. After hearing resident concerns and the owners' responses, the Committee voted to submit a letter of support for the clinic as part of its licensing and approval process.
St. Thomas Campus Master Plan
Representatives from the University of St. Thomas presented its new Campus Master Plan at our October meeting.
St. Thomas has identified 14 potential projects, including two new academic buildings, more housing and more parking, in the 10-year, $300 million master plan. The potential campus projects include a third science and engineering building, a new Summit Avenue building for the arts, up to 437 additional beds in four new buildings and up to 631 additional parking spaces.
To comment on the master plan email firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can contact Doug Hennes, vice president for government relations and special projects at 962-6402, or Amy Gage, neighborhood liaison at 962-6123.
St. Paws Dog Daycare and Boarding Zoning
St. Paws Dog Daycare and Boarding at 1920 University Avenue was recently evaluated. The City was making a determination as to whether the use of the property as a pet boarding facility is consistent with the T3 zoning in the area. The Department of Safety and Inspections had some concern about the impact of the business on Iris Park, which is one location used for pet relief. After gathering community input, the Committee made a recommendation supporting the business without conditions.
The city's Planning Commission recently made a determination consistent with our Committee's recommendation. It concludled that the dog day care and boarding facility is similar to other uses within T3 zoning, allowing the continued operation of St. Paws as long as it maintains an indoor pet relief area (which it has) and promtly disposes of any waste occurring outside of the building during dog walking.
The Naughty Greek Beer and Wine License
A new business has opened at 181 Snelling Avenue, just north of Selby (in the location of the former Cupcake). Called The Naughty Greek, it is a greek-inspired restaurant. The restaurant owner applied for a beer and wine license, and the Committee recently made a recommendation to approve the license.
The business owner also requested permission from the city to fill in a tree trench in the boulevard to accomodate a sidewalk patio. The city approved this request.
Augistine's Bar and Bakery Liquor License
The owners of the Happy Gnome in the Cathedral Hill neighborhood have leased the former J & R Cleaners & Laundry space at 1668 Selby (at the corner of Selby and Pierce, pictured to the left), across from Taste of Thailand. They opened an establishment called Augustine’s Bar and Bakery -- a coffee shop and full service restaurant and bar focused on craft beer and scratch cuisine. They hope to create a cozy, casual neighborhood vibe, and to be a place where you can enjoy your morning coffee and fresh pastry, and then come back after work to enjoy a pint and a meal. They also feature a weekend brunch.
They have applied for a full liquor license, and a license to serve alcohol outdoors on the sidewalk. The Committee submitted a letter of support for both licenses.
36 North Mississippi River Boulevard Lot Split
Trustees of the residence at 36 North Mississippi River Boulevard have applied to split the lot to create a second parcel, likely to construct a second single family home there. In the image to the left, the current parcel is highlighted. The vacant portion of the parcel is on the east side, and is currently lawn space.
The Committee discussed this issue and decided not to make an official recommendation at this time. If you have any concern about this lot split, please contact us.
Lexington Station Proposal
An affordable housing project called Lexington Station is being proposed on Lexington Avenue between I-94 and University Avenue, just to the east of the Wilder Foundation's parking facility.
The project is a collaboration between Michaels Organization, a large affordable housing developer, and CPM Companies, the local development partner. This is a significant project, with a projected 246 living units in two separate buildings, which would be constructed on a now-vacant Wilder-owned parcel. The properties would be separated by green space and pedestrian and bicycling paths.
The Committee has heard a presentation by some of the project partners, including Erin Anderson from Cuningham Group Architecture. They will likely be back before the Committee in the coming months to request input and recommendations on the site plan for this project.
Lot Improvement at Corner of Snelling and Selby Avenues
A property owner has purchased the former used auto dealership at the northwest corner of Snelling and Dayton Avenues. He intends to improve the lot with fencing and landscaping to provide parking spaces for the adjacent businesses at the northwest corner of Snelling and Selby Avenues. The site plan for the property (see image) has received a recommendation from the Committee, and approval by the City.
The 128 Cafe Parking Lot Expansion and Liquor License Request
The 128 Cafe has been granted a variance to expand the parking lot (currently behind the building) to create four additional parking spots on the east side of its building. The photo (left) shows the site where the parking lot will be constructed (to the right of the building at 2057 Laurel/128 Cleveland). The required set-back from the adjacent property line is 9 feet, and the parking lot would provide only 7 feet of set-back space, requiring the 2-foot variance. The committee had sent a letter of support for the small variance that would allow four additional parking spaces, but did not support a larger variance that would accommodate six additional spaces. Additionally, the 128 Cafe is applying for a full liquor license for its restaurant at 128 Cleveland Avenue. It has received the required waiver from the University of Saint Thomas to obtain a license nearby a chapel, and received a letter of support from the Committee.
1509 Marshall Development Proposal
Earlier this year, representatives of RS EDEN presented a proposal to purchase a vacant property and build a new housing development at 1509 Marshall Avenue. The current buildling is pictured to the left. The project would have built 60-70 small units of low-wage workforce housing with modest rents with access to transit in proximity to current and future jobs.
We recently learned that another owner purchased this property, ending RS EDEN's development pursuit. Watch here for updates as to what will become of 1509 Marshall.
Current Land Use Committee Projects
Midway Center Task Force
This Task Force was set up to prepare a report with community vision, goals, and strategies for redevelopment of the Midway Center superblock for consideration by the Union Park Land Use Committee and other stakeholders. [ more information on the Midway Center Task Force ]
Housing Mix Working Group
The mission of the this group is to prepare a report with recommendations on how to find a balance of residential single-family housing and Congregate Living Facilities (CLF) in Merriam Park. It aims to:
- Develop a residential land type and usage map
- Review existing studies and literature
- Engage community stakeholders
- Study property tax implications
- Craft recommendations for the UPDC Board and City
- Leverage the model across the City
The group presented preliminary findings and recommendations to the Planning Commission on January 22. You can review their full presentation here. It also was featured in a recent Star Tribune article.
The group has recently expanded its work to focus on ways to market and promote Merriam Park for potential single family home owners. It held open meetings on the following topics:
The Housing Scene
A panel of Realtors explored what attracts single-family home ownership on residential streets in Merriam Park. How can we encourage families doing tear-downs in Highland to buy equally large historic homes in our neighborhood (and at a better price!)? Are there city-sponsored incentives that could encourage renovation?
The Retail Scene
Developers addressed what single-family buyers are looking for in terms of retail options. Neighborhoods with walkability to original restaurants and stores are all the rage nationally. We clearly have that in Merriam Park: Heirloom, a hot new foodie restaurant; retail and restaurants on Selby, including an urban farm store and Neighborhood Café; Izzy’s Ice Cream on Marshall and more. How can we better promote these amenities?
The Transportation, Parks and Education Scene
National studies indicate that mass transit, green space and colleges/universities are all factors that attract single-family owners to a neighborhood. Can Merriam Park further promote the Green Line and biking, improve recreation options at Merriam Park itself and leverage the new soccer stadium to benefit the neighborhood?
The Rental Scene
The group explored rentals in Merriam Park by hearing from landlords and the city. How do other college neighborhoods or towns, such as Northfield, promote high-quality, affordable housing stock? How can we ensure that Merriam Park remains a dynamic, diverse neighborhood?
In addition to active promotion of our initiatives, organizers will forward residents’ suggestions to Union Park District Council.
For more information about the group's work, contact John Syverud at email@example.com.
Snelling Avenue Green Space
The Union Park District Council has been hoping to work with our community to transform the vacant property at the northwest corner of Snelling and I-94 into an inviting green space. The stretch of land between St. Anthony Avenue and Bremer Bank is owned by MnDOT. We would like see this plot transformed into a welcoming common space there with trees, plantings, seating, solar-powered lighting, public art, and an interactive pathway designed to encourage residents to walk through and enjoy the space.
Why improve this space? This common area would create an attractive gateway for people entering the neighborhood, increasing the commercial potential of the area between I-94 and University Avenue. This site is located directly across Snelling from the vacant “Bus Barn” property – the future site of a Major League Soccer stadium. Improvements to this parcel will support the redevelopment of the 34.5-acre Midway Shopping Center site into a vibrant, transit-oriented, higher-density urban village.
Additionally, this improvement will enhance the walkability of our community. The Green Line light rail station at Snelling and University Avenues is within a half-mile of the residential area to the south, but few people make the trek along Snelling to light rail, because heavy traffic, air pollution, overgrown invasive plants, and litter make the walk unsafe and unappealing. For this reason, creating pleasant public green space along Snelling was identified as a priority solution in a recent community walkability project with residents, business owners, the District Councils Collaborative, City staff, and MnDOT engineers.
Summer 2015: We partnered with the Friendly Streets Initiative and its Better Bridges for Stronger Communities project to conduct a survey and engage people on the space. Residents viewed a gallery of images, and told us their priorities for improving the parcel. You can review the survey results here. We also initiated a watershed survey by the Capitol Region Watershed District, who could design (and fund part of) a rain garden on a portion of the parcel.
Fall 2015: In collaboration with the Friendly Streets Initiative and the Saint Paul Riverfront Corporation, we participated in a workshop with community members, MnDOT and city staff, and other partners to create a detailed vision for the space. We took a walking tour of the area, analyzed the sapce, shared some food together, and came up with a design concept to make the space welcoming for our community.
Winter 2015: We took the community-guided design that is created during the fall workshop and provide it to MnDOT and Capitol Region Watershed District designers. Additionally, we shared the Snelling Commons vision with the architect working on the Midway Shopping Center redevelopment Master Plan.
Spring 2016: We hoped to organize a committee of community members to assist and advise on the implementation of the project, and planned to reach out to potential partners to help with the funding of the project.
Unfortunately, MnDOT has indicated that it would like to transfer its ownership of the site to another entity, and it is not interested in investing in improvements to the site at this time. MnDOT's participation in this project is crucial, as the property owner and as a funder of the plants and organic materials to be installed there. So, the project is on hold while we wait to see how the parcel ownership plays out. We continue to advocate for improvements to the site!
If you have questions or are interested in supporting this project, please contact Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org.