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Improved 2040 plan nears approval

November 20, 2018

Like many areas of political discourse these days, the proposed Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan has inspired deeply differing views among many Minneapolis residents. Thousands of commenters and hundreds who attended public hearings on Oct. 30 and Nov. 14 have not been shy about expressing strong opposition and support.

In our view, the goals and general direction of the plan are laudable. The blueprint for the citys future is grounded in 14 goals adopted by the City Council, including reducing disparities between whites and other racial groups, increasing the supply of affordable housing and tending to the environment. Nearly 100 policy recommendations were made. As a city with increasing population, Minneapolis must pursue smart growth policies that incorporate new residents efficiently and reflect citizen values.

That said, before the final vision statement is adopted, there should be further discussion of proposed provisions that could undermine the financial viability of projects and have a negative impact on development. Proposed inclusionary zoning rules would require developers to make a certain percentage of their units affordable up front. Giving builders additional city-approved options to contribute to lower-cost housing could be an alternative.

Given the differences of opinion expressed about the blueprint, city planners deserve credit for making significant changes in response to public input. The Planning Commission approved more than 80 amendments to the plan, including making the citys parks more accessible, creating more sidewalk space and documenting and publishing anticipated impacts on greenhouse gas emissions and major city infrastructure. Other revisions include clarifying language to better define terms, reducing allowable building heights and providing more detail about strategies to increase affordable housing.

A smart adjustment to the first draft is reducing the number of units allowable on a single-family lot to three instead of four. The initial draft proposal would have allowed multiunit housing up to fourplexes on lots throughout the city. Current zoning rules prohibit fourplexes in roughly two-thirds of Minneapolis and on 80 percent of the citys lots, limiting options for developing most city land to either single-family homes or large apartment/condo buildings.

As the Editorial Board has previously argued, allowing smaller-scale multiunit homes offers a less intrusive way to increase density and available housing. Scaling back to triplexes acknowledges parking, traffic and other concerns raised by opponents and strikes a reasonable compromise.

Without question, the Twin Cities needs more and more varied types of housing. The Metropolitan Council reports that the population in the region increased by more than 200,000 in the past decade, with about 30 percent of that growth in the two core cities.

Meanwhile, as Minneapolis moves closer to adopting its plan, St. Paul continues work on its vision for the future. St. Paul officials, who released a draft comprehensive plan in March, recently received a six-month extension from the Metropolitan Council and wont submit the citys final plan to the regional planning agency until June 2019. Members of the public can continue to submit comments until Jan. 11, when a public hearing is scheduled before the Planning Commission.

In Minneapolis, City Council members are expected to discuss amendments that would strengthen goals to increase density, reduce racial disparities and address climate change on Monday, Nov. 26. A final city vote on the plan is expected on Dec. 7.

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