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Critics dominate first round of comments on Minneapolis 2040 plan; second round coming Monday

October 27, 2018

Opponents dominated the first round of public input on Minneapolis two-decade vision for its future development. Now city planning commissioners will learn from a public hearing Monday if revisions to the plan will earn more support for increasing housing density and quell the fears of those worried about neighborhood destruction.

The Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan calls for denser development citywide by allowing multiunit housing in neighborhoods now reserved for single-family homes and more intense development along transit corridors.

In more than 2,100 public comments submitted online to the city this spring and summer on housing-related aspects, critics outnumbered supporters 2-to-1, according to a Star Tribune analysis.

City planners released an updated version of the comprehensive plan last month. Major changes included allowing three-unit properties in every neighborhood, instead of the original plan for fourplexes, and scaling back a plan for up to six-story structures on blocks near busy transit corridors.

Minneapolis real estate attorney Tim Keane, a vocal opponent of the comprehensive plan, said he doubts that city planners weighed both sides of the comment debate equally.

In everything I have observed, the process has been structured to reinforce the original premise, Keane said.

By contrast, 2040 plan supporter Janne Flisrand, a representative of the pro-density group Neighbors for More Neighbors, said she saw changes based on specific requests during the public comment period, such as rezoning for more density in south Minneapolis East Isles neighborhood.

Speaking for myself, I see many of the things that I asked for in the plan have shifted, said Flisrand.

The city introduced the first draft of the comprehensive plan in March. The proposal provides a road map for Minneapolis over the next 20 years on interconnected goals that range from accommodating density to reducing carbon emissions and making the city racially equitable.

From the start, the plans recommendations to loosen zoning codes particularly in residential areas have generated the most controversy, setting off shouting matches at neighborhood forums and lawn-sign campaigns on both sides.

On Monday, the citys Planning Commission will hold its first public hearing on the second version of the plan. The City Council will hold its own public hearing next month.

In the first round of public input, the city received more than 18,000 comments through in-person public forums, online comments and more.

In an interview last month, Heather Worthington, the citys long-range planning director, said staff reviewed every one.

I think we have done a very robust and very deep process of considering the comments that we received, she said.

The Star Tribune analyzed more than 2,100 public comments submitted online to the city and posted on the 2040 plans website, focusing on areas directly addressing housing and density. Of those, about 60 percent expressed opposition, 26 percent supported the concepts and the rest were inconclusive or unrelated.

Of the hundreds who supported the plan, many lauded its goals to make Minneapolis neighborhoods more affordable and racially integrated.

Love this! wrote one. These plans will allow our city to adapt and thrive. I cant wait to see what new housing options will be built in the near future.

Some supporters urged the city to loosen zoning restrictions further to allow for more density, or even require it, in some areas.

Density is good when done right and for the most part, this plan proposes higher density in the appropriate places and along transit lines, one commenter wrote. If anything, I would double down on the density requirements of certain areas such as the downtown core and require a minimum of 15 stories or more.

Opponents worried that allowing more multiunit buildings would wreck the character of their neighborhoods and give developers a free pass to buy up and tear down single-family homes, many of them small enough that theyre affordable.

This plan could destroy the nature of my neighborhood and my reason for living in the city, wrote a south Minneapolis resident. We moved here because we like the idea of living in a neighborhood of well-maintained older homes with sunny lots.

NO NO NO ... You are crazy! wrote another. I work outside [Minneapolis] but live inside. We dont need to develop all this land in one of the biggest giveaways to developers.

Some were skeptical that the proposals were enough to make Minneapolis more affordable and ease segregation, and worried it may do the opposite.

You say the plan is for racial equality but all you are doing is making developers pockets bigger and creating 2-3-4 plexes that will be too expensive for most people of color, wrote one commenter.

The Planning Commissions public hearing is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Monday in room 317 of City Hall. The City Councils will take place Nov. 14 at 4:30 p.m. in the same location.

The City Council plans to vote on the final plan in December.

Staff writer Eric Roper contributed to this report.

Andy Mannix 612-673-4036