Jan. 19—The St. Paul City Council approved wide-ranging zoning amendments on Wednesday aimed at making it easier to install townhomes, clusters of cottage homes, "mother-in-law" apartments and other types of medium-density "neighborhood scale" housing across the city.
The zoning changes follow the first phase of the city's "1-4 Unit Housing Study," which aims to create more "infill" housing — a kind of middle-ground between single-family homes and large apartment buildings. City planners have acknowledged that the study's opening phase spanned mostly modest technical adjustments, such as updating the zoning code so it reflects practices that were already common as a result of zoning variances.
City planners working hand-in-hand with the neighborhood district councils are looking to expand upon that work in a second phase of the study, and virtual community discussions have been scheduled on Zoom.
BIGGER CHANGE MIGHT BE AHEAD
Bigger changes could be ahead, possibly opening the door to more duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes citywide.
"One of the things we heard from folks at the public hearing was 'Don't drag your heels on phase two. Let's not take 11 months to get this going,'" said St. Paul City Council President Amy Brendmoen on Wednesday.
The St. Paul City Council approved a resolution on Wednesday declaring a climate emergency in St. Paul and calling on the federal government, the Minnesota legislature and the state's executive branch "to immediately and aggressively take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions statewide."
Council Member Mitra Jalali said increasing housing density — so people drive less and live closer to where they work, shop and recreate — will be a key step toward that aim.
CHANGE APPROVED WEDNESDAY
Among the changes approved by the council on Wednesday:
— A property will no longer need to be owner-occupied in order to establish a mother-in-law apartment or accessory dwelling unit.
— Restrictions limiting accessory dwelling units to properties spanning at least 5,000 square feet will be thrown out.
— An existing zoning restriction mandating 22-foot minimum widths for single-family and two-family homes in residential districts will end.
— A minimum distance of 12 feet between buildings on a single lot will be reduced to the minimum fire separation required between buildings under the Minnesota Residential Code, which varies based upon the fire rating of the exterior wall of each building.
— The formula to calculate front yard setbacks will be simplified.
— A clarification that a registered student dwelling may have six students, rather than four, living together in a unit, in keeping with the city's new definition of a household.
COMMUNITY SESSION FEB. 1
In advance of the zoning study's second phase, the first community session will take place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Feb. 1, focused on the southwest part of the city. It will be hosted by the Macalester-Groveland Community Council and Highland District Council.
The second session will take place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Feb. 10, focused on the northwest and central parts of the city. It will be co-hosted by the Como Community Council, Hamline Midway Coalition and North End Neighborhood Organization.
The third session will take place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on March 2, focused on the East Side neighborhoods and the West Side. It will be co-hosted by Dayton's Bluff Community Council.
A link to each Zoom room will be available online before each meeting at engagestpaul.org/1to4housingstudy.