Minneapolis mulls stricter housing height, lot limits


New houses in Minneapolis would need to be shorter and take up less of their lots under a proposal that goes before the city’s planning commission next month.

The details of the ordinance are still being hammered out. Commissioners will give guidance tonight on what the height and size limits should be.

Residents in the upscale southwest Minneapolis neighborhoods of Linden Hills and Fulton are pushing for the changes. Thanks to high property values and good schools, those areas are at the epicenter of an unprecedented building boom as developers replace one-story bungalows with much larger homes.

“The more that we have appropriate rules in place on what you can build next door, the better we will have good neighbor-to-neighbor relationships,” said Council Member Linea Palmisano, who represents southwest Minneapolis and is sponsoring the proposed changes.

Earlier this year, the city banned teardowns and new home construction in five southwest Minneapolis neighborhoods. After a month, it lifted the teardown ban and agreed on a plan to address complaints about construction noise and inconsiderate contractors.

Now the city is wading into the more complicated question of how to make the houses better blend in with neighboring properties.

This isn’t the first time it’s grappled with those issues.

In 2007, the city reduced the maximum height of new homes from 35 feet to 30 feet. But neighbors still complain the new structures tower over those nearby, casting long shadows over once sunny backyards.

The zoning rules under consideration may also reduce the the maximum percentage of a lot that can be covered with buildings and pavement.

The current cap is 65 percent, but neighbors say new construction continues to cause runoff problems. City staff may recommend dropping the cap to 60 percent, said Jason Wittenberg, the city’s land use, design and preservation manager.