Minneapolis 2040 plan nears approval, despite concerns

The Minneapolis 2040 comprehensive plan is nearing final approval after City Council members settled the most controversial issue this week.

Members voted in favor of allowing triplexes to be built where single-family homes are now located. The key vote happened after council member Linea Palmisano, a critic of the 2040 plan, proposed eliminating the allowance of triplexes.

The comprehensive plan had initially allowed fourplexes in areas currently reserved for single-family homes. City planners rolled that back earlier this year, before Palmisano's proposal this week.

"It’s been haphazard. It’s been chaotic," Palmisano said. "You see policy makers who are not planners writing this comprehensive plan on the fly."

With the density issue apparently settled, Council President Lisa Bender has scheduled a Dec. 7 City Council vote on the entire plan. The Metropolitan Council would also need to approve it.

Palmisano said the 2040 plan would allow absentee landlords to split up their rental homes, tripling their profit. She favors requiring one of the units to be occupied by the property owner.

Supporters of the comprehensive plan, including Bender, say the city needs to promote more dense neighborhoods to solve a housing shortage.

"Our city is growing. Our population is growing. And so we know we need more housing for people," Bender said. "We have one of the lowest rental vacancy rates in the country."

Bender predicted that developers would not quickly move to divide up their properties. Four years ago, Minneapolis allowed property owners to create so-called "accessory dwelling units," effectively turning homes into duplexes. Since then, only about 100 such units have been built citywide, Bender said.

The density provision in the 2040 plan has sparked outcry at public hearings this fall.

At a City Council committee meeting on Wednesday, Minneapolis resident Julie Anderson carried a sign protesting the comprehensive plan.

The plan has moved too fast with too little public input, Anderson said. She said she had never received a written notice from city officials about the potential for citywide density changes.

"It’s a wonderful city, and if it ain’t broke, don’t break it," said Anderson, who lives in the south central part of Minneapolis. "What I’ve suggested and many of my neighbors have said is, just slow it down. Get it right."

Bender disagreed with the criticism that the public hadn't been brought to the table.

"I’m not sure the city has ever undertaken such an extensive community engagement process before, certainly not for a comprehensive plan," she said.