We want to share an important action that Neighbors for a Livable Saint Paul (NLSP) has just taken and ask for your support.
On Tuesday, October 27, NLSP filed suit in Ramsey County District Court against the City of Saint Paul compelling the city to enforce it own zoning laws that govern the development of Highland Bridge (formerly Ford site).
Since the Ford Master Plan was approved in 2017, NLSP has continued to monitor the project to ensure that the new building construction is consistent with the original principles of that plan. As Ryan Companies works with the city on the permitting and variance process for the first few buildings, it has become apparent that the principles of the Master Plan are merely a pretext to create unwritten rules to work around inconvenient zoning laws, and to inflate the scale of the already out-of-scale plan.
The Master Plan requires that each building type include a percentage of “open space”(typically a minimum of 25%) that is distinct from the percentage of the lot covered by the building footprint. This is presumably intended to improve the aesthetics of the development and prevent and urban-canyon-like feel.
For the very first building in the development, the City determined that Ryan would not need a variance to count private rooftop decks and apartment balconies as “open space”which is clearly in conflict with the original intent of the plan and the common sense understanding of the term open space. This is unacceptable and sets a troubling precedent for the rest of the project.
Given the concerning lack of checks and balances in Saint Paul city governance, NLSP cannot stand by and watch the city break its own zoning rules.
Therefore, NLSP has petitioned Ramsey County District Court to declare that the city must grant Ryan a variance if they intend to deviate from the Master Plan. NLSP remains committed to promoting responsible community development that enhances the existing neighborhood and the City overall.
But we need your financial support to ensure that we have the resources to help fund this effort, the pending petition, and future legal action.Please make a contribution to support NLSP’s Legal Action Fund by clicking here.
Thank you for your support!
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The walls close in
What is “open space?” Does it matter in the greater scheme of things? Why does what’s not there matter so much to Neighbors for a Livable St. Paul who are demanding with a writ of mandamus that the City observe its own requirements?
If you’re adding at least 7,000 residents and as many again office and retail staff to a really limited area, open space is truly at a premium. If buildings mass too close to streets and walkways, a pedestrian or a resident looking out a window has the sensation of being closed in a canyon. Precious nature, flowers and trees, disappear. Places to sit do not exist though it doesn’t matter since there’s nothing there to enjoy.
To prevent this experience of feeling enclosed in urban canyons, planners put together zoning patterns which left liberal open space (25% in most areas). Then construction started and the reality of what Highland Bridge was going to be began to emerge. For each new building developers requested variances increasing building mass and reducing open space.
The greatest outrage was a radical change in the definition of open space itself. What had been carefully described in a 64-page document published in 2011 which categorically excluded any private space, suddenly was reduced to a sentence in the Master Plan, “as areas covered by landscape materials, gardens, walkways, patios, recreation facilities or play areas.” The Zoning Administrator “decided” that this implied all private areas meeting this description would be included: interior atriums and exterior balconies inaccessible to the public.
Thus open space dissipated into the ether and the walls of Highland Bridge began to move ever closer together.
Howard Miller, St. Paul
For specifics on "Space" conflict, click here.
Density AND single family homes with yards? The Danes did it!
We are regaled daily with articles about the need for higher density buildings (usually linked to multi-family, higher-rise buildings).
These clarion calls for change are typically linked to racism, i.e. if you oppose high-density you oppose affordable housing. If you oppose affordable housing you are racist.
Is this the connection which our city should be making? Is it really a good way to go or is it actually an unintentional form of discrimination?
Zoning for the Missing Middle:
Are there better ways of zoning than that practiced by our St. Paul Planning and Economic Development Dept. (PED)? Are there better ways to achieve density? Click on the headline and scroll down till you find the video.