At its core Neighbors for More Neighbors will always be working towards allowing more complete neighborhoods throughout our entire city. These complete neighborhoods should include a variety of housing options, food access, and local businesses and services. We believe that monitoring and influencing what happens at city hall is crucial to see our goal of complete neighborhoods come to fruition.
To that end, in August of 2022 Neighbors for More Neighbors started a volunteer task-force to track the next stage of the City of Minneapolis’s implementation of the 2040 Comprehensive Plan. Specifically, we wanted to keep an eye on the Land Use Rezoning Study. This study would ultimately result in an overhaul of the city’s zoning code which determines what kind of uses are allowed in different parts of the city. The land use update follows the already completed work the city has done on the built form part of the code. These two elements together represent the complete picture on what uses are allowed in what places.
Ultimately, the city council unanimously approved the new land-use code that resulted from this study, and Mayor Jacob Frey signed the code on May 30th, 2023. The new land-use code will take effect on July 1st, 2023.
The city council’s adoption of the Land Use Rezoning Study is itself a win. This update is a huge step towards simplifying the code and making our land use more consistent after decades of spot zoning and building inconsistencies. It provides a strong foundation upon which we can build. While we had some very important wins (on grocery stores especially) there remains a lot of work to be done to realize the city’s (and our) goal of complete neighborhoods.
Why is the Land Use Rezoning Important?
The 2040 comprehensive plan created the first major overhaul of the zoning code in 24 years (since 1999). The city created a new code which is much easier to read and use for the general public. They updated many of the tables and sections to be much simpler and created the new use table which is color coded with the maps to make it simple to read what uses are allowed where in the city. However, there are many details of the code which are not specified by the 2040 comprehensive plan and which determine the results of what is actually built.
Things like, how big can a new grocery store be? Do you gain or lose buildable space as you build up on a typical lot? Will we have complete neighborhoods where we can walk to daily needs like food and work? These questions were the types of things the land use zoning study would address. The answers to these questions had the potential to bring us closer to the goal of complete neighborhoods.
As such, N4MN brought together over a dozen people to research the new code, communicate our findings, talk to the city staff, planning commissioners, and elected city council members to advocate for the changes we need to see.
What was achieved?
Much of our time was spent researching the new draft code (published in January 2023) on the city’s website. Our policy & research team spent many hours poring over the new use tables and the 384 page zoning code document published by the city. After we had an understanding of exactly what kinds of uses would be allowed throughout the city, we tried to determine where we thought the city could do better.
N4MN pinpointed several issues with the code that were either too restrictive or actively made the code harder to understand without much good reason. Throughout the study and in the final product the city addressed many of these changes, detailed on the 2040 page.
One specific policy which N4MN advocated for and which was adopted by the Planning Commission and signed into the new zoning code was increasing the size of the Grocery Stores from a maximum of 10k square feet to 20k square feet in the new residential mixed-use districts. This is the difference between being too small for an Aldi’s to allowing a typical Kowalskis to be built on Penn Ave N.
Other policies which we worked towards made conversational progress, but were ultimately not adopted and we are still far from allowing every neighborhood to have a short, year round walk to their daily needs.
We will cover each of these issues in its own blog post because each issue came with different experiences, lessons learned, outcomes, and next steps. Watch for our policy specific blog posts:
- Land Use Rezoning Wins: Grocery Stores and Code Clarity
- Limited Commercial in Urban Neighborhoods
- Built-Form: Setbacks
- Built-Form: Why the Missing Middle is still Missing
- Volunteer Led Task Forces: Lessons Learned and Future Suggestions
As climate change brings more storms and pushes us towards needing more homes and more businesses close to those homes in order to de-carbonize our lives we need to continue to push for Minneapolis, and all of Minnesota, to be a place where we can walk, roll, and take the bus to live our lives.
Land use and zoning are a huge part of that effort and we’d love to see you on our next task force!
Connect with us by sending a short email asking to get involved to firstname.lastname@example.org.