Zoning & Planning Committee rejects appeal for Linden Hills condo height

The Minneapolis City Council Zoning & Planning Committee on Thursday rejected a developer’s appeal to allow for a four-story condo near Lake Harriet.

The committee denied the developer’s appeal to modify a conditional use permit to allow for the four-story building. The council members denied the appeal on a voice vote, after comments from nearby residents and the developers, John Gross and Andrew Commers.

“I just think it’s simply too big in the sightline,” Ward 7 Council Member Lisa Goodman said. She added that she thinks city staff came to an elegant compromise, which was to allow for a three-story condo.

Gross and Commers are looking to build a four-story, eight-unit condo on the site, which includes several parcels on 44th Street between Upton Avenue and Lake Harriet Parkway. However, they need a conditional use permit to build above 2 1/2 stories, because of the nature of their project and the area’s overlay zoning district.

City staff recommended allowing for three stories to ensure the building would be compatible with the scale and character of the neighborhood. The City Planning Commission approved that recommendation last month.

However, Gross and Commers have said a three-story condo wouldn’t be economically viable. Their team has argued that four stories would complement existing uses in the area and wouldn’t negatively impact surrounding properties.

They’ve also argued that the building would have limited visibility from the lake and would blend in with surround development to the extent it would be visible.

Some neighbors and nearby residents have spoken out against allowing for four stories. One nearby homeowners said Thursday that the condo would tower over her yard and noted the condo would appear to be five stories from the sidewalk level. Another said the project would be out of scale in the neighborhood and would set a precedent for development near Lake Harriet.

More than 55 people have written to city officials to express concerns about the proposed height. Before the Oct. 16 Planning Commission meeting, the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council Zoning & Housing Committee and the East Calhoun Community Organization Livability Committee each voted to oppose granting the permit.

After Thursday’s hearing, Gross said the committee’s decision was “deeply disappointing.”

He noted that he could build a denser building on the site, but he indicated that wouldn’t be too popular, either.

“A by-right development would be no better for neighbors,” he said.