Developer trying to get waiver for Linden Hills apartment complex

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August 21, 2012 by Sarah M

By Nick Halter

A developer is trying to get a waiver from the Minneapolis City Council to move forward with applications to build a 60-unit apartment building at 45th and France Avenue in the Linden Hills neighborhood.

Neighbors probably remember the project as Sunnyside Flats. It was introduced in March, prior to when the City Council put in place a moratorium on large-scale development in Linden Hills. The city’s Planning Commission denied that project.

Now the developer, Scott Carlston, is asking the city to give him a waiver to avoid the moratorium and to consider giving him approvals to build a four-level building called “France Avenue Apartments” on the same site.

Carlston, in his request for a waiver, said that because his France Avenue Apartments project is so similar to the Sunnyside Flats project, it should still be considered to have been proposed before the moratorium was put in place.

He also expressed doubt that the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council would complete its small area plan within a year of the moratorium taking affect on May 11. The moratorium was put in place so that the neighborhood could adopt that small area plan, which is meant to guide development in the area.

The France Avenue Apartments project calls for four stories and 60 units. The Sunnyside Flats project called for five stories on the front of the building, four on the back. It would have featured 62-units of apartments and one level of retail space.

A phone message left for Carlston today was not immediately returned.

Carlston will need to the city to re-zone the four parcels of land, give him a variance and approve his site plan. He’ll also have to tear down 26 units in smaller apartment buildings already on the site.

The Linden Hills Neighborhood Council on Aug. 16 voted unanimously to ask for the city to deny the developer’s waiver request, in order to “protect the integrity of the Small Area Planning process and to respect the significant investment and efforts that residents are making to work with the city to complete a Small Area Plan.”

In a letter the neighborhood organization sent to the city, LHiNC says it is making progress on the small area plan and hopes to have a consultant hired by December. The letter does not promise to be completed within one year and the group’s co-chairs have not responded to an e-mail seeking comment.

UPDATE: Brian Schaffer, a city of Minneapolis principal planner, said the Linden Hills Small Area Plan is unlikely to be completed by March 30, when the moratorium is set to expire.

City staff, in its report, recommended that the Zoning and Planning Committee grant Carlston the waiver and wrote: “Staff finds that approving the waiver and allowing the developer to proceed with land use applications would not be in conflict with the purpose for which the interim ordinance (moratorium) was enacted as ample opportunities would be afforded to all neighborhood residents to share their perspectives on the development in public hearings, and ultimately the decision lies with the City Council and the policies that are adopted.”

The city’s Zoning and Planning Committee will discuss the moratorium waiver request on Thursday morning.

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