The Saint Paul Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on its draft regulations related to the Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area (MRCCA) at 8:30 a.m. Friday, January 20 (new date), at City Hall. The changes are needed for the city to comply with Minnesota’s latest river corridor rules, which were adopted in 2017.

The lengthy and complex process of amending the city’s river regulations has been a frustration for Highland Park residents living near a proposed four-story, 91-unit apartment building at the northeast corner of Mississippi River Boulevard and Highland Parkway. Under the current height limits, developer Paster Properties can construct the apartment building up to 50 feet high. Under the new rules, the height limit would be 35 feet.

“I think we’re all anxious to get this done,” said principal city planner Allan Torstenson, who presented the 138-page draft report to the Planning Commission on October 14.

The draft amendments are based on a 2019 Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) model ordinance with specific provisions, definitions and regulations necessary to comply with the MRCCA rules. Protecting scenic resources and river views are a primary focus for the MRCCA, which covers the 72-mile stretch of the river through the seven-country Twin Cities area.

Torstenson outlined the years of back and forth discussions over the amendments, with public hearings, exchanges with the DNR and even a proceeding before an administrative law judge. Saint Paul has also met extensively with other cities’ staff working on their own ordinances.

Last summer, the DNR found Saint Paul’s draft ordinance to be in substantial compliance with what it has proposed, and gave it a conditional OK. That sent the rules back to the Planning Commission and eventually the City Council.

Adding a layer of complexity is the need to meet changing federal Emergency Management Agency requirements for flood insurance eligibility. In areas near Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, there are other height regulations.

For more information on the draft ordinance, visit

— Jane McClure


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