Greenway plan in final stages

Plan will guide development for pathway

A land use plan for the Midtown Greenway could be enacted by the end of the month.

City staff and consultants spent the past two years developing the Midtown Greenway Land Use Development Plan with the help of a steering committee made of representatives from neighborhood and advocacy groups, Hennepin County, the City Council, the Metropolitan Council and elsewhere. The plan was created to provide policies for land use and development along the greenway, a bicycle and pedestrian trail, and planned rail transit way that stretches along 29th Street from Lake Calhoun to the Mississippi River.

The City Council's Zoning and Planning Committee will decide Jan. 18 whether to recommend approval of the plan to the full Council. If recommended, the Council will vote on the matter at its Jan. 26 meeting.

Not everyone is pleased with the plan or the city's process to create it, but city staff said it should create more clarity and direction for developers, neighborhoods and other stakeholders as the corridor is developed in coming years.

Beth Elliott, a principal city planner in the Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development Department, said the plan has three main highlights. The highlights involve some of the issues that were most discussed with community members during the planning process, she said.

One highlight called for maintaining industrial property where it is vital or beneficial to the community but reevaluating the use of such sites if current industry moves or is sold. The city has developed a future land use map for the greenway plan that recommends the best use for each plot of land along the path. Property owners would be encouraged to comply with the plan, which suggests that the section of the greenway near Hiawatha Avenue is best for industrial use.

Another plan highlight is its call for a &#8220private realm” along the greenway that would incorporate a promenade set back from the path. The addition would require new developments to be set back at least 15 feet from the greenway, Elliott said. The promenade would also provide access to the greenway.

Perhaps the most controversial talking point of the greenway plan involves building height.

Specific building types such as single-family homes or small apartments are considered appropriate for different sections of the greenway based on surroundings, according to the plan. But no height restrictions are made beyond zoning requirements. The plan does recommend &#8220explicit consideration of shadowing and visual connectedness” when conditional-use-permit requests for height are considered.

Elliott said the city wants to allow for a variety of building forms along the greenway, and regulating height would prevent that. But not everyone is on board with the city's reasoning.

&#8220Their method of ensuring sunshine along the greenway is not strong enough,” said Tim Springer, executive director of the Midtown Greenway Coalition.

The coalition, a group of volunteers aimed at developing and improving the greenway, is largely happy with the city's plan, Springer said. It has a few unresolved issues, though. Most significantly, the group advocated for an overlay district along the greenway that would require builders to do an analysis of shadowing. The idea didn't make the plan.

Calhoun Area Residents Action Group (CARAG) president Howard Verson also would have liked to see more attention paid to building height and shadowing. CARAG recommended stronger height restrictions during a public comment period for the plan.

Verson said the city didn't seem to take public input seriously during the planning process, which included seven community meetings. &#8220There's a great deal of dissatisfaction about the whole process,” he said.

Community members brought up concerns about the greenway plan's loose height guidelines at a public hearing before the Planning Commission last month. Comission member Lara Norkus-Crampton said the plan was not as complete as she wanted it to be, and the height issue should have been better addressed prior to the hearing. But at the end of its meeting, the Commission recommended that the Planning Zoning Committee approve the plan. Height issues, however, will be addressed in the Uptown Small Area Plan.

To view the greenway plan, go to www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/planning/ and look under &#8220current planning projects.”