outdoor concert
Tim Blessing, brother Dave and Matt Schoen kick back while enjoying the sounds of Sawyer’s Dream, one of four bands providing entertainment during the Highland Park Harmonies concert on October 10 near the Highland Park Pavilion. Photo by Brad Stauffer

Hearing officer says Mac-Grove hydroponic container has to go

The fate of a large hydroponic container used to grow food will be decided by the Saint Paul City Council on October 21. Unless the council reverses the recommendation of a legislative hearing office, Mitchell Karstens will have until October 30 to remove the container, which sits in the rear parking lot by Wells Piano, 408 S. Snelling Ave.

The container is designed to grow vegetables and fruits year-round in a manner that uses electricity and water efficiently. Such units are classified as storage containers by the city and are considered temporary. However, Karstens contends it is a piece of agricultural equipment for his business. There are reportedly about 500 such containers around the world and are allowed in other cities, including Minneapolis.

Legislative hearing officer Marcia Moermond said the issue is not how the container is used, but its adherence to city building and zoning regulations. She said that as of now, the container is regulated in the same way as storage containers. “I hope you can find a path forward,” she told Karstens.

HPC and BZA support plan to add second triplex on Summit-U site

A triplex can be built on a vacant property in the Historic Hill District despite objections from neighbors. On October 6, the Saint Paul Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) approved plans by Sullivan Property Investment to build the triplex at 542 Portland Ave. That same day the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) approved variances for the project. Both decisions are final unless they are appealed to the City Council within 10 days.

The project won a recommendation of approval from the Summit-University Planning Council (SUPC) earlier this fall. The property is already zoned for multifamily use, so no zoning change is needed.

The property comprises two lots, which will be combined. An existing triplex on the north side of the property will remain and a three-unit townhouse will be built on the rear yard. HPC staff recommended approval, albeit with almost a dozen conditions on building materials, window and door design, and BZA approval of the variances.

The developer received more than a dozen letters of support, but several neighbors sent letters that objected to overbuilding on the property, parking congestion and other issues. They asked the HPC and BZA to deny the requests.

Six variances were required. The applicant is proposing the main entrance of the new triplex to be in the rear of the building instead of the front. Eight off-street parking spaces are proposed instead of the required 10. A lot coverage of 38.39 percent is proposed instead of the maximum 35 percent. The lot size is 12,493 square feet instead of the required 15,000.

A minimum lot width of 20 feet per unit is required, or an additional 60 feet for the new triplex, but zero additional feet are proposed. The existing lot is a legally nonconforming 46.08 feet wide. A minimum rear-yard setback of 25 feet also was required, while 15 feet is proposed.

Friends launch petition, lawn sign campaign on behalf of city library

The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library launched a campaign this week asking people to sign a petition and display a lawn sign or decal in their yards or windows to show their support for the library, which is facing a proposed $1.3 million budget reduction next year.

Members of the Friends have said they recognize the 2021 city budget will be the most challenging in generations. However, they note that proposed library cuts are proportionately larger than those of any other city department.

Free lawn signs and window decals that read “I’m a Friend of the Library” will be available for pickup at several locations this week, including from 3-6 p.m. Wednesday, October 14, and 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday, October 16, at HealthPartners Highland Clinic, 2004 Ford Pkwy. For information and to sign the petition, visit thefriends.org/protectthelibrary.

Highland Bridge update planned

Tony Barranco and Maureen Michalski of Ryan Companies will provide a virtual update of the Highland Bridge project at 6 p.m. Wednesday, October 28. The program will include a 60-minute presentation, followed by 30 minutes for questions. Registration is required. Visit HighlandBridge.com/news.

News Briefs were compiled by Jane McClure and John Wadell.

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