Public hearing for Loring development moratorium is Thursday

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May 2, 2005 // UPDATED 1:54 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Jeremy Stratton
Jeremy Stratton

Residents and developers will have a chance to weigh in on a building moratorium on Loring Hill - more than a month after the City Council passed it.

The public hearing takes place before the Zoning & Planning Committee on Thursday, May 5, 9:30 a.m. in room 317 at City Hall.

On April 1, City Councilmember Lisa Goodman (7th Ward) introduced the moratorium, which halts new construction and expansion of development in the area south of the park, bounded by Interstate 94, LaSalle, Hennepin & Lyndale avenues, and West 15th Street.

Goodman introduced the ban to allow for the completion of a small area plan (SAP) spearheaded by Citizens for a Loring Park Community (CLPC.) The SAP will provide guidelines for Lowry Hill area development, land use and historical preservation.

The moratorium went into effect immediately, for up to a year, after the Council's unanimous April 1 vote.

Now, the moratorium goes to the Council committee - an inversion of the usual committee-to-full Council process. Barb Sporlein, city planning director, said that's the way moratoria happen. Now that the moratorium is in place, city attorneys and planning staff are busy drafting the interim ordinance language, which will be added temporarily to the city's zoning code.

That text will address the SAP's purpose and findings and define the restrictions of the moratorium and the waiver process, which could grant exceptions to developers in specific cases. (Developers "with building permit in hand" may move forward, Sporlein said.)

The final language will address whether projects within the area's current Office Residential Three zoning could continue.

That may be a big question for developers; a condo project at 401 Oak Grove, currently in the planning stages, was recently changed to offices by its developer.

Loring Park residents and CLPC voted to support the moratorium at the neighborhood group's recent land use meeting. Most said that development should be supported, but that issues such as traffic and building guidelines should be addressed before development commences.

Others were not in favor, fearing that the moratorium and the prospect of higher interest rates by April 2006, might drive developers away from the area.

At CLPC's April board meeting, Goodman called the moratorium a "fairly heavy-handed tool," and cautioned that she had not introduced it to "sandbag" specific developments. The timing is good because development was in a lull, with only the 401 Oak Grove condos and a proposed project at 1730 Clifton Place then in planning stages in the affected area, Goodman said.

"I live in the neighborhood," Goodman said. "It's different when you understand what's going on in the neighborhood."

Although CLPC had discussed the moratorium in the past, Van Heel said the introduction "came as a surprise" to the board, which nevertheless gave Goodman a round of applause at the April board meeting.