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Council plans hearing on “accessory dwelling units”

Posted on 14 January 2016 by Calvin



Green Line light rail has attracted its share of new housing development. But if St. Paul plans come to fruition, not all of that housing will be large in scale. The St. Paul Planning Commission holds a public hearing at 8:30am on Fri., Feb. 5 at City Hall to discuss the potential for accessory dwelling units in neighborhoods one-half mile north and south of the Green Line.

So what’s an accessory dwelling unit? The units are sometimes called “granny flats’ or “mother-in-law” apartments. Anyone who has seen the historic alley houses in Frogtown has seen another form of an accessory dwelling unit.

PHOTO: Example of an accessory dwelling unit as cited in the Comprehensive Plan Committee Report to the Planning Commission (December 11, 2015)

City Planner Jamie Radel jokes that if people ever watched the television show “Happy Days,” they might remember that the Fonzie character lived in an apartment above the Cunningham family’s garage. Dwelling units above garages, built inside existing homes or in new, small buildings in a back yard are considered accessory dwelling units.

Before the light rail line was built, city staff did extensive land use planning. Zoning changes for mixed-use development were more high-profile, as were detailed plans for green space and each station area. But one idea discussed several years ago was that of allowing people to add accessory dwelling units to existing homes in neighborhoods north and south of the rail line between Emerald and Marion streets.

The proposed amendments are very technical and deal with the minimum size of dwellings of properties, underlying zoning, egress including staircase placement, and the permanence of smaller structures. Some cities  allow temporary, portable, small dwelling units for elders or people with disabilities to stay in on a property, to allow family members to provide care while giving privacy. That isn’t on the books yet in St. Paul but is an idea that could be discussed.

Read about the study at https://www.stpaul.gov/departments/planning-economic-development/planning/current-activities.

Area project receives Met Council grant
An area project was among those receiving funds in the latest round of Metropolitan Council grants. In December, the Council gave out about $11.5 million for projects throughout the region. The grants focused on housing creation, job growth, and economic development. The grants will create more than 1,700 jobs and 800 units of affordable housing.

One upcoming Green Line project that received funding is Raymond Flats at the southwest corner of University and Raymond. The council gave the project $1 million in transit-oriented develop funding. The project involves reuse of historic structures and new construction to develop market-rate housing and retail space. One council-funded feature of the project will be a solar array.

The grant will also pay for bike facilities, storm water improvements, and sidewalks and trails,

“These annual grants are an important council tool to support development that responds to market demand, but face financial hurdles,” said Council Chairman Adam Duininck.
The Council says that the 18 grants, totaling $11.5 million, will ultimately leverage more than $400 million in other public and private investment.

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