The University of Saint Thomas’ bid to own another house on Summit Avenue and include it within the campus boundary is meeting a mixed reaction from neighbors. The current owner of the home at 2037 Summit Ave. approached university officials about the sale, according to Amy McDonough, UST’s chief of staff and liaison to the university’s president. A university donor would actually purchase the house and give it to the university. One idea is to use the house as a resource center for UST students who are veterans.

The proposal was reviewed on April 12 by the West Summit Neighborhood Advisory Committee. McDonough told WSNAC that UST’s current campus veterans’ center serves about 200 students. The Summit Avenue house could provide space for student veterans to socialize, she said, and it could allow UST to host events centered around veterans. Other campus events and an alumni center are also being considered for the house.

UST officials have already talked to the Summit Avenue Residential Preservation Association (SARPA), the city and neighbors about the proposed campus expansion. However, before UST can expand its campus boundary, it needs to seek a modification of its conditional use permit from the city.

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Manderscheid noted that there is a history of local property owners wanting to sell to UST, which has led to neighbors objecting to what they call campus sprawl. He suggested UST look elsewhere on its campus for a veterans’ center.

All colleges and universities in Saint Paul have CUPs, which set campus boundaries and limits on the height and setbacks of new buildings, the number of dormitory beds and enrollment. CUPs used to include parking requirements. However, the city has abolished the requirement that any type of land use provide off-street parking.

UST’s CUP is different from those of other colleges and universities, according to Marc Manderscheid, who represents the Macalester-Groveland Community Council on WSNAC. The UST CUP was approved in 2004 after a long fight with neighbors and SARPA over the expansion of the campus to the two blocks between Summit, Grand, Cleveland and Cretin avenues.

SARPA sued UST and the city. The lawsuit was settled in August 2004 with the release of all claims. The release was entered into by SARPA, the Merriam Park (now Union Park) District Council, Macalester-Groveland Community Council, city of Saint Paul and Saint Thomas.

The settlement resulted in the City Council’s approval of UST’s CUP with the two-block campus expansion. The terms of that settlement control any future amendments to the CUP, including amendments to the campus boundaries, according to Manderscheid. The settlement forbids the non-residential use of UST properties on Summit Avenue east of Cleveland Avenue, Manderscheid added. If UST or the city fails to abide by the terms of the CUP, the other parties to the agreement could take them back to court.

Manderscheid noted that there is a history of local property owners wanting to sell to UST, which has led to neighbors objecting to what they call campus sprawl. He suggested UST look elsewhere on its campus for a veterans’ center.

The CUP states that the 2004 boundaries “set forth herein…are considered as the definitive, long-term campus for the University of Saint Thomas. Expansion beyond this area shall be considered contrary to city policy. Saint Thomas agrees not to purchase additional property in the neighborhood within one mile of the campus or along the entire length of Summit Avenue, with the exception of a home used as a residence for any future ex-president or chancellor.”

WSNAC members and local residents attending its April 12 meeting expressed mixed feelings about the proposed campus expansion. One concern was that university ownership would take the house off of the property tax rolls.

Some WSNAC members said the CUP agreement could be revisited. Others said the campus boundaries were established for a reason. They also noted that the long-promised redevelopment of the two-block campus expansion area has never fully been realized. UST is still using houses on the block west of Finn Street for university residences and offices.

— Jane McClure

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