Wedge draft of rezoning map draws criticism

The Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association — concerned that older Victorian-style homes were being torn out and replaced with high-density, rental housing — has tried to get their neighborhood rezoned to stop the demolitions.

In 2002 the City Council enacted a development moritorium at the neighborhood’s request, allowing them time to convene a taskforce to work with the city on a rezoning map. The process was being touted as a model for city rezoning.

But when LHENA’s rezoning taskforce members got a look at the city’s rezoning map draft — to be based on the neighborhood’s study — they were outraged. They complained that the map, which rezones 140 properties in the neighborhood between Lyndale and Hennepin avenues and Lake Street, reflects little of their input.

City Senior Planner Beth Elliot is one of three planners to work with the taskforce and said she’s surprised by the map controversy. She says that because it’s a draft, there’s plenty of room for changes before a City Council vote.

Development that requires a zoning change has been halted in Lowry Hill East (also known as the Wedge) during the rezoning study. The study has already been extended past the one-year deadline, and City Councilmembers have urged staff to wrap it up soon, with a late July deadline looming.

Councilmember Dan Niziolek (10th Ward) said the rezoning study’s intent is to move higher-density zoning to the neighborhood’s periphery and make zoning more uniform.

However, taskforce members said the city map still mismatches zoning and doesn’t encourage home preservation, especially in the neighborhood’s Lyndale-Hennepin tip. They add that it doesn’t adequately push high-density zoning to the neighborhood’s periphery or protect existing housing.

Residents also complained about volunteering their time only to see their priorities undermined. "We’ve played by the rules, volunteered our time and city staff has gotten paid — I feel slapped in the face," said taskforce member Meg Tuthill, both a longtime resident and business owner.

Despite the frustration, Taskforce Chair Steven Prince said the taskforce is continuing work with city planners on the draft map, plus their own design for the neighborhood. He said he hopes a consensus will result.

Elliot agreed and said she would continue working with as many residents as possible.

The taskforce scheduled a neighborhood meeting for community members to learn about the rezoning project on April 29, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Jefferson School Auditorium, 1200 26th St.

For questions or to submit comments about the Wedge neighborhood rezoning plan, write Elliott at Beth.Elliott@ci.minneapolis.mn.us.