Lyndale, CARAG residents seek part of front yards back

Lyndale resident Brad Kettersmith wants a vacation, and he has the backing of the Lyndale and CARAG neighborhood groups.

Kettersmith is not looking for an early-fall getaway. He is organizing fellow 34th Street residents to get the city to vacate 8 feet of their front yards.

Due to a fluke of history, the city owns 8 feet between homes and sidewalks on 34th between I-35W and Lake Calhoun in Lyndale and CARAG — right up to many front doors. Thus, legally, 34th Street residents do not fully own their front yards.

Homeowners wishing to add a fence, porch or retaining wall must not only purchase building permits but also pay $50 for an encroachment permit to avoid interfering with the city’s property rights.

Said Dennis Morris, the city’s right-of-way supervisor, "A vacation request is not an uncommon in Minneapolis. We get about 30 such petitions from homeowners a year."

The petition fee is $300; Morris is asking that 34th Street property owners make a blanket request to return all street frontages, rather than do it on an individual basis.

The city’s Public Works and Economic Development Departments must sign off, and utility companies also review petitions. Most times, Morris said, vacations that are approved do not increase property taxes.

The reason the city owns so much more of 34th Street than on most residential streets is that it was originally plotted as an 80-foot-wide artery such as 42nd, 46th and 50th streets. The street became residential and was never built that wide, but the city retained ownership rights to the full 80 feet.

Said Kettersmith, "34th is clearly a residential street. If the city were to take back this land by either moving the sidewalk closer to the buildings or building a wider street, it would be very detrimental to the property owners. The city doesn’t need the land; it was just plotted that way."