Group appeals variance for new St. Paul development project
Zoning laws are in place throughout Minnesota. These laws help to define the types of buildings that can be built in a particular area and how those buildings can be used. However, just because zoning prohibits a particular type of structure, does not mean that it will never be built. Instead, it means that extra steps must be taken in order to make it work.
A variance is one way to get around zoning laws in a particular area. With the right approvals, a variance allows a structure to be built that would otherwise be prohibited. In general, approval from governing bodies including a city’s planning commission is necessary to obtain a variance.
Recently, a housing developer in St. Paul obtained a variance in order to build upscale housing in Highland Park. The group is planning to build a 210 unit apartment complex and above ground parking structure. When completed, the building will stand around 73 feet tall. However, zoning laws in the area restrict building height to 40 feet. The development group, therefore, sought and obtained a variance from the St. Paul Planning Commission.
The Planning Commission’s decision is now being appealed by a local group. This group believes that the building — which will sit at near Shepard Road and Davern Street — will change the quality of the neighborhood. They believe that it will block Mississippi river views, negatively impact the historical feel of the area and hurt the environment. Further, they argue that evidence from the Department of Natural Resources about the building’s negative impact was not properly considered by the Planning Commission.
The process of obtaining or appealing a variance can slow or stop construction on a new real estate project. Like all real estate litigation, it can also drive up the cost of a project. Therefore, it is important for developers and property owners to understand their legal options when a project is threatened by the zoning code or variance issues.
Pioneer Press, “6-story Highland Park project will be appealed,” Marino Eccher, May 4, 2015
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