Ban on high-density zoning in Rondo OK'd by St. Paul councilby Rupa Shenoy, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The future look of the Rondo neighborhood alongside the Central Corridor light-rail line is clearer after the St. Paul City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to trim back plans for high-end, high-density zoning along sections of the Central Corridor.
Council members Melvin Carter and Russ Stark introduced amendments to a zoning package that will largely determine how neighborhoods along the Central Corridor develop. Those include the Rondo neighborhood -- a historically African-American community that was torn by construction of Interstate 94.
The amendments limit new buildings east of Lexington Parkway to a height of a height of three to five stories, and reduced the minimum density for buildings near rail stations by half.
At a public hearing on the amendments, Brian McMahan of the business and civic group University UNITED told the council the changes limit possibilities for redevelopment.
"We really need to be thinking big picture, long term, irrespective in some ways of who's the property owner today, or what the neighborhood wants," McMahan said.
But several people from the Rondo neighborhood spoke in favor of the amendments, including Veronica Burt.
"Residents have been very concerned about having a potential downtown Manhattan right outside of their doorsteps," Burt said.
Before a vote on the amendments, Stark said people on both sides of the debate had strong points.
"I am concerned that this may prevent some development from happening in that historic Rondo community that may otherwise happen. And I think folks have mixed feelings about that -- they want to see new investment but they don't want to see buildings that are too high," Stark said.
Stark said it's difficult to attract developers to build three-story buildings because it's not as lucrative. And Carter acknowledged that the Rondo neighborhood may not see as much development as it might see without the amendments.
"Any regulation limits the activity that you're regulating," Carter said. "Any zoning limits development."
Council Member Dave Thune said the zoning amendments show that the city recognizes it needs all kinds of development -- but development of a scale that respects existing neighborhoods.
"We just don't want to change those neighborhoods, and if some developers want to go somewhere else, so be it," said Thune. "Why should we allow them to dictate how our neighborhoods should be, when the people in those neighborhoods don't want it to be that way."
- Morning Edition, 04/21/2011, 7:25 a.m.