The Saint Paul City Council will hold a public hearing at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 27, on a proposal to eliminate the neighborhood consent requirement for certain development projects. The Planning Commission voted unanimously on June 24 to recommend the change.

The city currently requires two-thirds of the property owners within 100 feet of a proposed development to sign a consent petition before a development can be reviewed by the Planning Commission. According to senior city planner Kady Dadlez, the petition requirement gives veto power to a small number of property owners and creates a difficult hurdle for developers who may have trouble finding the owners of nearby properties.

The consent petition requirement would be eliminated for the establishment or reestablishment of a legal nonconforming use, the expannonsion or relocation of a nonconforming use, and the use of a nonconforming commercial parking lot. The requirement would also be eliminated for two types of conditional use permits. One is for a new carriage house, the other for the conversion or reuse of a residential structure or a church or school with more than 9,000 square feet of gross floor area.

Consent petitions would still be required for zoning changes and other land-use requests. Anyone seeking Planning Commission approval for a land-use change would also need to meet other technical requirements, such as consistency with the city’s comprehensive plan.

Two people testified in support of the changes at a Planning Commission hearing this spring. The Macalester-Groveland Community Council board voted in support of the change, but it also asked that the city give a 30-day notice to district councils of any zoning requests so that there is more time to engage the neighborhood on the proposal. City staff rejected that request due to a state law requiring cities to act on zoning requests within a specified amount of time.

— Jane McClure

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