Teardowns and In-fill Housing
On July 20th, my office sponsored a community meeting to discuss the issue of teardowns and in-fill housing. An excellent turnout of more than 80 people attended the meeting, and participated in a lively and constructive conversation about neighborhood character and the benefits and challenges of development pressures in Ward 13. I would like to thank City staff for their hard work in preparing the opening presentation for this meeting and all those who have shared their thoughts with me both at this meeting and through phone-calls and emails.
Some of the concerns neighbors talked about were the size and bulk of some new houses, the lack of information provided to neighborhoods about new construction or demolitions, ensuring enforcement of the current zoning code and of building codes, the lack of connection to the community by developers and builders, and the need to address the issue without discouraging positive development. It’s a good thing that people want to live and invest in Ward 13, but it’s important to make sure that a wide variety of people can live here and that we keep the things that make the Ward a great place to live. We will take the input and suggestions from this meeting and continue working with staff to move forward with a solution on this issue. Please let us know if you have any questions or suggestions.
The City Council passed the amendment unanimously on June 29 th. The new ordinance went into effect on July 3 rd, and will apply to all permit applications submitted after that date. The regulations apply to all single- and two-familiy homes. The changes include:
Introduction of a floor area ratio (FAR).
A floor area ratio is a calculation that is used to determine the floor area allowed for development based on the size of the property. All multi-family, commercial, and industrial development has a FAR in the Zoning Code. Now, single-family homes and duplexes have an FAR of 0.5. The 0.5 FAR limits the size of a new house or remodel to half, or 0.5, the size of the lot. For example, a new home on a 5,000 sq. ft. lot could be up to 2,500 sq. ft. There are ways to maximum the FAR through the design of the home.
In order to encourage traditional building features, certain portions of homes are not counted toward the FAR, including the following:
1. Detached garages
2. Attached garages that are 250 sq. ft. or less (one parking stall). Attached garages size in excess of 250 sq. ft. will be counted toward the total size of the home.
3. Half stories. This is area under a hip or gable roof that is half the square footage of the floor below. Half stories can be livable space, such as bedrooms.
4. Basements that do not project more than 4 ft. from grade.
5. Open porches
Height of homes
The way that the height of homes is measured has also changed. The zoning code changes included reducing the height of homes from 35 ft. to 30 ft. The zoning code measures the height of a home at the midpoint of the roof, or halfway between the peak and eave of the main roof line. In addition, natural grade was added to the glossary of the zoning code and defined as the elevation of the property prior to construction disturbance. The height of home is to be measured from natural grade to ensure consistent heights of homes.
Building footprint and hard cover
The amount of impervious, or hard surface allowed in low density residential areas was reduce in the zoning code changes. The maximum building lot coverage, or footprint of all buildings (home, garage, shed, etc.), was reduced from 60 percent of the lot to 50 percent of the lot. The amount of impervious or hard cover (building, walkways, driveways, etc.) was reduced from 75 percent of the lot to 65 percent of the lot.
Exceptions to the FAR
The FAR requirements include two types of exceptions to the FAR. The first allows for up to a 500 sq. ft. building addition for homes that exceed the FAR or would exceed the FAR with that addition. The other exception allows for the FAR and height to be increased when a minimum of half the homes within 100 ft. of a site also exceed the FAR or height requirements. Both of these exceptions can be done administratively. A variance can also be applied for to increase the height and size of a home. The variance process includes a public hearing and typically takes 6 to 8 weeks.
To view staff reports and the text of the amendment, visit: Infill Housing Text Amendment
Council Member Hodges office is pursuing solutions to communications issues raised during the ordinance change process.
2009 - 2013
Additional standards adopted in 2009 were intended to ensure that new homes are more appropriate in an urban setting compared to many of the homes that we were seeing built prior to that time. In addition to new design standards that are explained here, the City also adopted limitations on front-facing garages, which is a common characteristic of many suburban-style houses. It’s important to keep in mind that the City has many neighborhoods and that the character of our residential areas varies significantly from one neighborhood to the next—and in some cases from one block to the next.
Wrecking permit notification
Some residents are surprised to learn of a teardown in their neighborhood. Since 2009, contractors are required to notice all adjoining properties no less than 10 days before scheduled excavation. In addition, the City of Minneapolis creates a Planning Applications Report that lists all of the applications for Land Use – which includes new home site plans as well as variances and Heritage Preservation – which includes wrecking reviews. Neighborhood associations receive the weekly notice and residents can subscribe to get the report: here.
Neighborhood design guidelines
Individual neighborhoods have spent a great deal of effort to develop guidelines aimed at ensuring that new homes are more compatible with the character of their communities. There are practical and legal reasons why the City cannot enforce neighborhood-adopted design guidelines. For a brief explanation, see the Design Guidelines of the Neighborhood Guide for Developing Planning Documents. Council Member Hodges has and will continue to work with staff to ensure that the City is making developers aware of neighborhood guidelines when we see new proposals in neighborhoods that have such guidelines.
New zoning code amendment - 2013
Council Member Gordon has introduced a zoning code amendment that looks at the issue of neighborhood conservation districts. Although these districts, if adopted, will not cover the entire City, the intent is that the districts will be utilized to conserve features of neighborhoods where there is a particularly cohesive style or scale. Although conservation districts will generally not prevent teardowns, they will allow for a closer examination of what is built in place of homes that have been removed. This tool will likely include City Council adopted design guidelines. For more information about the Conservation District Ordinance, contact: John Smoley - (612) 673-2830
How to check on a property
If you have any concerns about a specific property being in compliance with the zoning ordinance, please call 311 and the address will be assigned to the Southwest zoning inspector who will inspect the property and reply to you directly regarding whether or not it meets ordinance.
For More Information: Contact the Ward 13 Council Office.
Last updated Mar. 21, 2013