Update: City committee advances a Linden Hills development plan that reflects the current scale, without strict height limits

Linden Hills’ small area plan advanced through the city’s Zoning & Planning Committee Dec. 9, without a specific 44-foot height limit, but with new language advocating respect for neighboring architecture.

The City Council takes a final vote on the plan Dec. 13. The neighborhood small area plan, once adopted by the City Council, will provide a guide for future development. The community spent more than a year crafting the plan, prompted by controversial residential projects. Several residents said they were disappointed last week when the city Planning Commission moved to strike their numerical height specifications from the plan. Linden Hills groups had requested heights no more than 44 feet in certain commercial areas of the neighborhood. (The plan also suggested heights near 44th & France up to 50 feet or four stories.)

Residents were anxious to hear the position of Mayor-elect Betsy Hodges, who currently represents Linden Hills on the City Council.

On Hodges’ behalf, Council Member Lisa Goodman (7th Ward) proposed a new amendment to the plan that was adopted Monday by the committee.

The committee voted to encourage building heights that “reflect the adjacent architectural context” and encourage buildings shorter than current Zoning Code maximums of three and four stories (42 feet and 56 feet).

“We cannot place an overall numeric number in the small area plan under the law,” Goodman said at the meeting. “It’s probably not going to provide the guarantee that the neighborhood wants — that no builder will ever be able to build anything taller than 44 feet — but it gives staff guidance to recommend to developers … that this is the expectation in the community.”

Council Member Meg Tuthill (10th Ward) initially suggested postponing the vote to allow more clarification for the community. Goodman disagreed.

“Who knows? The next group of people could say there shouldn’t be a height limit,” Goodman said, referring to the incoming City Council. “This is a very pro-density group of people.”

Tuthill said Linden Hills residents should remember that the plan is only a guide.

“This is not written in stone,” she said. “We have learned this from the Uptown Small Area Plan. Please do not expect this to be the end-all, because it won’t be. You can’t go home and not pay attention to what’s being developed and what’s going on in your community. I think that sometimes people think that this is absolutely God’s word and it’s not. It’s a guideline.”