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Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

Allianz Field granted major noise and signage variances

Posted on 08 March 2018 by Calvin

No limitation on noise during games; a 1872% variance on temporary signage, and 179% variance on permanent signage

By JANE MCCLURE
Allianz Field, the soccer stadium under construction near Snelling and St. Anthony avenues, has won a blanket noise exemption from city noise limits for soccer games. The St. Paul City Council approved the measure Feb. 14. Minnesota United FC is expected to start playing at the field in 2019.

The noise exemption—or sound variance—is one of two measures approved in February for the stadium. The St. Paul Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) Feb. 26 approved variances for permanent and temporary signage at the stadium site. The BZA laid over a request in January to separate permanent and temporary signage, and to have questions answered.

The noise exemption has been debated for several weeks in neighborhoods around the stadium and at City Hall. A public hearing was held in January. Ward One Council Member Dai Thao laid the matter over Feb. 7, so he could review a recommendation from Union Park District Council (UPDC).

Photo right: Major sign variances are now approved for Allianz Field. (Photo by James Burger)

The district council asked that the exemption be rejected and that the city council set a maximum noise level of 65 decibels allowed during the playing and exhibition of any game or league event at the stadium. That is consistent with the allowable daytime noise level.

UPDC believes it is a reasonable limitation to impose after 10pm as well, instead of the current ordinance limitation of 55 decibels after 10pm. UPDC also recommended that the ordinance exemption or variance be put in effect on a conditional or trial basis, for the first five home games of the 2019 season. After an opportunity for review of the noise level generated, it could be granted for the remainder of that season.

Neighbors south of the stadium, in the Snelling-Hamline neighborhood, attended the Feb. 7 meeting to voice concerns. They said they hadn’t gotten notice of the January public hearing. Snelling Park residents Tim Mangan and Jeff Schaller heckled the council before the layover vote. After the meeting, Schaller said that if the soccer team fails, he foresees neighbors getting blasted with loud rock concerts.

“The city has totally ignored our neighborhood,” he said.

“We are literally in the shadow of the stadium, and we deserve consideration,” said Mangan. Snelling Park is the neighborhood south of Concordia Ave., between Snelling Ave. and Pascal St.

But Thao, who represents part of the affected area, said the exemption is a better way to regulate noise. He said it doesn’t include concerts and fireworks, and that such events would be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Thao also said the exemption is what is in place at other stadiums in the area. He also pledged to continue working with neighbors and UPDC on noise issues.

Environmental impact studies of the stadium indicate that the blanket exemption is a better strategy for handling noise, said Thao.

Outgoing Ward Four Council Member Russ Stark, who lives north of the stadium, said the city is limited by a development agreement previously adopted on the stadium. “To say you can hold soccer games but you have to quiet the fans down somehow doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

As for the signs, the BZA approved two of the most significant variances seen recently at City Hall. Zoning regulations allow for 250 feet of temporary signage. Team contractors led by Mortenson Construction installed 4,167 square feet of signage without the needed sign permits. They also want to install and additional 763 square feet of signage, for a variance of 4,680 square feet.

Most of the temporary signs promote the Minnesota United FC and the contractors. Some signage promotes the businesses remaining at Midway Center. The temporary signs will come down once the stadium and permanent signs are completed.

The BZA also approved a variance for permanent signage. The zoning code sets the amount of permanent signage by street frontage and property size. The code allows 1,776.5 square feet of signage; the request is for 3,187 square feet of signage, for a variance of 1,410.5 square feet. This signage is on the stadium lower levels as well as on pylons and in the plaza planned at Snelling and St. Anthony avenues.

One concern the board had about so much permanent signage is whether it would affect the longer-term development of the site. While there are parking lots shown west of the stadium, plans call for those sites to be developed in the future. BXA members and city staff had questioned whether the stadium would lose signage or if yet more variances would be sought in the future.

But it sounds like at least one more variance is on the way. Bill McGuire, the lead team owner, has been discussing the possibility of dynamic signage at the property. Dynamic signage is lit, changing signage. An example is on Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul. Smaller examples are at Holiday Station stores.

The city has regulations on that type of signage, so it’s likely that before any dynamic signage is added at Allianz Field, a zoning code text amendment is needed. Those go through the Planning Commission and then to City Hall.

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