Linden Hills developer vows to rework plan after Planning Commission denial

UPDATE: Sunday’s open house has been cancelled in light of the Planning Commission’s decision. 

LINDEN HILLS – The developer behind a planned four-story, mixed-use building at 45th St. and France Ave. said he will continue trying to work with residents who oppose the project after a bid to rezone the property was denied on Monday.

Developer Scott Carlston had requested four parcels, now occupied by apartment buildings and a single-family home, be rezoned to allow the 62-unit mixed-use project to move forward. The building would also have included two ground floor retail spaces.

The Minneapolis Planning Commission denied the request after hearing from around a dozen residents who objected to the plans, saying it was too large for the community and inconsistent with its largely residential surroundings.

Commission members were also given a petition with the names of around 60 residents who opposed the project before the meeting.

Carlston said after the vote that he was “shocked” by the decision, but that he would continue trying to work with residents to come up with a proposal they could support.

The project is scheduled to be discussed at a Linden Hills Neighborhood Council open house Sunday (the open house runs from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Pershing Park). The neighborhood group’s zoning committee voted in March to oppose the rezoning request.

Though alternatives are still being explored, Carlston said he is considering removing the first-floor retail units so that the building height would be reduced. The building was planned to be 56 feet tall, the maximum allowed in the office retail zone Carlston sought to have the four parcels classified as.  

“I think that we can still have a situation this is beneficial to everybody,” Carlston said. “If we were able to remove a floor, that could be a win-win for everybody.”

Carlston said he has had difficulty getting neighborhood leaders to discuss the project with him, however. And the project comes as neighborhood leaders move to create a small area plan that would spell out the kind of development residents want to see in the community. 

A moratorium on developments that require conditional use permits to build higher than what is entitled in the zoning code has been put in place while the plan is pieced together.

Carlston’s project was exempt from the moratorium because it was submitted before it was passed, in late March, but it’s unclear whether a new proposal would be similarly exempt.

Carlston said his legal team is exploring that issue now, and a call to the city Planning Department was not immediately returned.

While plans remain uncertain, Carlston said he still hoped to begin work on the project this year, and that he believes it’s a development the community wants and needs.