Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

Development Roundup

Posted on 06 February 2018 by Calvin


Sign variance at the stadium?
Minnesota United FC’s sign variance request for Allianz Field has been sidelined. The St. Paul Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) sent the matter back to the drawing board Jan. 29. The BZA was poised to act on more than 4,000 sq ft of temporary and permanent signage above and beyond what city regulations allow. That’s a huge variance over what is typically allowed.

But on the advice of Assistant City Attorney Peter Warner, the BZA laid over the variance request, most likely until mid to late February. The board is asking that Minnesota United and Mortenson Construction sort out how much signage is temporary and how much is permanent, with the goal of separating those variance requests. The application before the BZA was sent back for more work.

Two different issues are being considered. The zoning code allows for up to 1,987.5 sq ft of permanent signage on the stadium property. The request is for 3,187.5 sq ft, for a variance of 1,200 sq ft. The team representatives contend a large amount of signage is needed for a building with multiple entrances.

Another issue to be considered is how much signage two future buildings along Snelling Ave. will need. If the soccer stadium is allowed to get a sign variance, Warner said future buildings will be limited in how much sign space they can have, or the stadium would have to lose signage that is already installed.

“When those buildings are developed, they’ll need signs,” he said. “It sounds like we’ve got a moving target here.”

Photo right: Just one of the signs that designate the stadum construction zone. There are 250 sq ft of signage allowed, but at one point, there was 3,237 sq ft on site—almost 13 times more than permitted by zoning. (Photo by James Burger)

Then there is the temporary signage, which went up last year without a variance. It is the subject of the second variance request. Jerome Benner II of the BZA staff said the variance would legalize the temporary signs.

Up to 250 sq ft of temporary signage is allowed in St. Paul, to typically identify a real estate agent and contractor. But 3,237 sq ft of signage went up at Allianz Field, requiring a variance of 2,987 sq ft. These signs are to come down once the stadium is completed.

BZA members said they need more information before they can act.

Under state law, a zoning request has to be acted on within 60 days. Otherwise, it is automatically approved. In this case, the deadline for action is Mar. 8. Only an agreement between the applicants and the city can extend the deadline beyond that.

Capital maintenance spending
Spending almost $3 million for St. Paul’s capital maintenance needs in 2018-2019 may sound impressive—until the $6.3 million in requests not met is looked at. St. Paul’s Long-Range Capital Improvement Budget (CIB) Committee voted Jan. 8 to recommend 46 projects to the City Council for approval. More than 80 projects missed the cut.

How to better fund capital maintenance and keep up with needs to repair city buildings and facilities is an issue in the ongoing redesign of St. Paul’s biennial capital project review and approval process. One frustration raised in recent years by the CIB Committee is what committee members see as a lack of maintenance for some city facilities.
“Capital maintenance is obviously a very important part of what we do,” said CIB Committee Chairman Noel Nix.

The committee is recommending $1.5 million in projects in 2018 and $1.498 million in 2019.

After the capital maintenance list wins approval from the City Council, most of the improvements won’t be visible or prominent to the public. A task force of CIB Committee members met with city staff to review the 2018-2019 requests. The group had several meetings to review the proposals, said CIB Committee Chairman Noel Nix. Proposals this time around were limited to a maximum request of $200,000 per request. A few requests had to be trimmed to meet that threshold.

The Departments of Safety and Inspections (DSI), Parks and Recreation Police, Fire and Public Works submitted proposals. For Public Works, the requests are limited to facilities and don’t include streets or bridges.

The parks department used a recent asset study, by the Ameresco consulting firm, to help develop its list. Studies of other city department capital needs and assets were completed after the 2018-2019 maintenance project requests were due, but will be used in future capital maintenance reviews.

Requests ranged from one proposal from DSI (new doors for the animal control building $21,598) to more than 80 proposals from Parks and Recreation. Each department had to rank its own proposals. Como Golf Course had one of the largest requests recommended, at $150,000 for new heating, ventilating and air conditioning. Smaller sums go toward zoo facilities for polar bears and large cats, and a sprinkler system for the carousel. Alas, the hooved animals or “hoof stock” and the frogs in the Como pond didn’t have maintenance requests met.

Grants awarded for projects
More than $10 million in Livable Communities grants were awarded by the Metropolitan Council in January. The grants are for Twin Cities communities for brownfield clean up and mixed-use and innovative development that connects Minnesotans with jobs, school, transit, and other services and destinations.

“For more than two decades, the Livable Communities Grant Program has turned polluted land across the Twin Cities into fertile ground for economic growth and opportunity and invested in our local communities,” Gov. Mark Dayton said in a statement. “These 2018 grants will create more than 2,100 jobs and support the development of more than 1,500 new units of housing.”

Grants are awarded competitively. Applicants are local units of government that participate in the Livable Communities program. One area project, near University and Victoria, is the Ain Dah Yung housing project for Native American youth. The project was awarded $350,000.
The St. Paul City Council in January accepted additional Metropolitan Council funding of $1.45 million for the Neighborhood Development Center’s mixed-use project at the northwest corner of Dale St. and University Ave. The project involves the demolition of building sites and use a vacant lot that was occupied for years by a church.

Mixed-use development eyed in West Midway
A mixed-use commercial-residential development is on the drawing boards for the West Midway, at 2103 Wabash St. Superior LLC has filed a conditional use permit with the city that is needed to change the mix of commercial/residential. The first-floor mix is supposed to be 80 percent commercial and 20 percent residential. Superior wants 10 percent commercial and 90 percent residential on the first floor. Commercial space would be located on the Montgomery St. side.

The property is zoned industrial and occupies the entire block face of Wabash from Montgomery to Myrtle Ave. The developers wish to covert the building from industrial to mixed use. It is zoned for industrial use and is in an area where other industrial buildings have undergone conversions for new uses.

The tentative public hearing before the Planning Commission Zoning Committee is Feb. 15 at City Hall.