Rezoning study under review in Linden Hills

Coffee shops and restaurants in Linden Hills could face fewer parking requirements as part of a city rezoning study under consideration.

Potential changes to city code would also allow more housing density along portions of France Avenue and 44th Street, and would create a more pedestrian-friendly atmosphere in spots like 44th & France.

The proposed changes are based on more than a year of neighborhood work to create a “Small Area Plan.” The Plan was adopted in 2013 to guide future development in the neighborhood.

Council Member Linea Palmisano said she’s been lobbying to implement zoning changes sought in the Small Area Plan.

Project Manager Brian Schaffer explained that the changes would bring parts of Linden Hills in line with citywide guidelines in Pedestrian Oriented Overlay Districts. Such districts encourage a pedestrian character and promote street life through building design rules and the prohibition of certain auto-centric uses.

A reduction in current parking requirements would impact businesses at 43rd & Upton and 44th & Beard. Those areas have parking rules based on the number of restaurant seats and are more onerous than the city zoning code, Schaffer said, which can drive up the cost of doing business. Many businesses are leasing parking spaces from other available lots. (A restaurant previously slated for the Southwest Auto building at 44th & Beard cited parking in a decision to drop plans for the corner.)

At an October neighborhood meeting, some residents questioned whether a lack of parking, with cars circling and hunting for spaces, actually leads to a pedestrian-friendly environment. Others questioned whether it would push parking further out into residential neighborhoods.

Schaffer responded that the changes would mean fewer parking lots for people to walk past, ideally with slower-moving cars in the area.

Schaffer called 44th & France an area that is extremely auto-centric today, and said the city could change guidelines to make the area more pedestrian-focused.

As for building design guidelines, all fourth stories inside the pedestrian-oriented district would be required to have 10-foot setbacks.

The following highlights a few other changes considered in the rezoning study:

— Upzone from low- to medium-density residential on France Avenue from 44th – 46th.  (The city defines medium density as 20-50 units per acre). Currently home to 2.5 or 3 story multifamily buildings, new housing in the area is envisioned to provide maintenance-free living as an alternative to single-family homes.

— Upzone from low- to medium-density residential along 44th Street between Drew and France 44 Wines & Spirits. A one-story childcare facility could remain, but rezoning would allow for denser redevelopment in keeping with the nearby townhouses and row houses.

— Upzone from low- to medium-density residential along the north side of 44th Street between Xerxes and the Church of St. Thomas the Apostle. The area is currently a mix of single-family homes and two-story apartment buildings.

A public meeting will take place Wednesday, Nov. 4 from 6-7:30 p.m. at Linden Hills Park to review the draft recommendations. A 45-day comment period ends Dec. 19. Written feedback can go to Schaffer at [email protected] 

The city Planning Commission will evaluate the changes in a public hearing Jan. 25, with final adoption by the City Council anticipated Feb. 12.

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