Greenway rezoning: Who was notified?

Informing stakeholders about the rezoning along the Midtown Greenway involved 10,000 letters, but some are concerned about who was notified and how they were informed.

The notification required for the rezoning along the Midtown Greenway, according to zoning code, is to put a notice in the paper and give neighborhoods 21 days of notice, but the city would never stick with the bare minimum, said Principal Planner Amanda Arnold.

Five thousand letters were mailed to taxpayers and property owners along the Midtown Greenway, she said. These letters notified stakeholders that the planning commission and city council would address the issue, informed them of three community meetings and directed readers to the project website, Arnold said. Also an e-mail informed stakeholders, including neighborhood groups, the business association and the Midtown Greenway Coalition in mid-August, Arnold said. Mailings had a block of information on the bottom directing stakeholders who needed the flyer translated.

Planning commission action was delayed on the rezoning study, and then a second mailing, of an additional 5,000 letters, was mailed and another e-mail was sent. Arnold said the mailings cost thousands of dollars.

Some neighborhood organizations have said they needed to be notified earlier in the process.

Originally 45 days notice was given from when the planning commission will take action, and with the delay it will be 60-70 days of notice beforehand.

But Mark Hinds, the executive director or Lyndale Neighborhood Association, said the rezoning may have severe implications on homes and business.

“It is actually a really big deal and I don’t think there was any where near the time necessary for people to think about it, talk about it and respond.”

Carol Pass, president of the East Phillips Improvement Coalition, said she was notified to respond to the plan, but not to create the plan, and that the coalition is running to catch up.

“We flyer in three languages, and we send stuff out that way, and we get people there,” Pass said. “We can’t do everything, in particularly if they don’t notify us until the last minute. … We should have known all summer, and we would have gone house to house.”

Arnold said the rezoning is implementing already adopted policy, including small area plans, and public processes took place around each small area plan. 

Marian Biehn, the executive director of Whittier Alliance, said she thinks proper procedures were followed and that there has been ample notification.

Bob Corrick, co-chair of Cedar Isles Dean Neighborhood Association (CIDNA) land use and development committee, e-mailed Arnold to express his concern that R1 stakeholders next to the R5 rezoning were not notified, and that as proposed CIDNA would need to bring flyers to those living across the street and affected by the project.

Arnold replied and said sending notification to those outside the study area can cause confusion and would have been expensive. Therefore the city relied on neighborhoods notification to reach out to people beyond the study area boundary, she said.

“We considered ‘bumping out’ our mailing and including properties outside of the study area but adjacent to a change in zoning; but the study area spans from France Avenue to the Mississippi River and there are 3,200 parcels within the study area, so adding the outside edges in the notification would have been a significant cost,” Arnold said.

Corrick was disappointed, but said he understands the city had limitations.

“I wish that the law was more considerate and that the city had the resources to notify more people,” he said.

Hinds has encouraged the city to send out mailings in at least two languages, but he said it does not seem to be a priority.

“Let’s be honest, who really is going to read a flyer that they can’t read because it is a language that they don’t know all the way to the bottom to a little line that says if you can’t read this and want it translated because you don’t know what the first part of it said,” Hinds said.

Arnold said neighborhoods have their own processes, and they will choose whether or not to spread the word, and other avenues such as press releases informed others who are not stakeholders.

“Our primary goal, we wanted the neighborhoods to know and we certainly welcome their comments, but our primary goal was to notify the people whose property was being affected,” she said.