This past year has seen an increase in residential home remodeling and rebuilds in the Highland Park and Macalester Groveland neighborhoods. The Ward 3 office is excited about new neighbors moving into the Ward; however, with this increase in construction we have seen more problems including messy construction sites, overflowing dumpsters and dangerous sidewalk conditions.
To combat these issues Councilmember Tolbert passed an ordinance requiring that all residential, exterior construction projects costing over $25,000 complete a Construction Management Agreement prior to construction. This Agreement reiterates the current Saint Paul City Ordinances and Minnesota State Building Codes that govern residential construction. Prior to construction the Agreement needs to be signed by both the contractor and the property owner and distributed to all the neighbors on the block in question and the block face across the street. The Agreement requires that the contractor's contact information be included on the Agreement for all neighbors to have access to, and posted on a sign in front of the property. In addition to the Construction Management Agreement, Councilmember Tolbert is introducing ordinances that tighten up dumpster regulations. The legislation will license dumpster haulers, add a sliding scale to dumpster permit fees (the longer they sit on the street the more the contractor will need to pay per day), and create new safety signage for dumpsters.
Another concern the Ward 3 office has heard from neighbors is the height and density of these new homes. Many neighbors are concerned new construction is changing the character of Highland Park and MacGroveland. Residential zoning ordinances were reviewed in 2009 when the market collapse led to a slew of cheaply built homes popping up across the city. During that time the city researched putting into ordinance a zoning code that would require that “new development shall relate to the design of adjacent traditional buildings.” However, it was retracted because the ambiguity, subjectivity, administrative cost and hindrance to architectural innovation it would cause. In place of that, new design standards were passed. To make sure we’re covering all our bases in light of this new development, Councilmember Tolbert has asked the City’s Department of Planning and Economic Development (PED) to study the height and density of new homes that have gone up to determine the effect different zoning changes would have on them. After the study is completed it will be reviewed by the City's Planning Commission and at that time the Planning Commission will take public testimony on the proposed changes. Following the Planning Commission process the proposed changes will go to the City Council where public testimony will again be taken. With the timeline we have in place we hope to have any changes in code prior to the start of next summer's construction season. If you have any questions about the PED study, please contact Mike Richardson, City Planner who is taking the lead on the study. He can be reached at or (651) 266-6621.
Update as of 12/3/2014
As he continues talking and working with neighbors who have been impacted by teardowns, Councilmember Tolbert continues to identify new ways to make the process more transparent. Wednesday, December 3rd, Councilmember Tolbert passed two resolutions to do just that.
One resolution requires that all future demolition permits be sent over ENS (the City’s electronic notification system) within two public business days following receipt of the application. Click here to sign up for these notifications.
The second resolution begins the process of creating a mailed notification for lot split approvals. The lot split process is part of the City’s zoning code, and all zoning code changes need Planning Commission review. Because of this, Councilmember Tolbert’s proposed ordinance change must go before the Planning Commission prior to adoption by the City Council. Today’s resolution will start that process.
In the meantime, the zoning study is in progress. Updates can be found here. Please take some time in the next month to share your thoughts about teardowns and single family home reconstruction with Mike Richardson. Your input will help decide the future of our neighborhood.
-Current Zoning and Construction Ordinances
-Construction Management Agreement
-Resolution directing PED to study new homes