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Burns & Hansen, PA

Developers want help to work with Minneapolis neighborhoods

Developers often run into land use zoning issues in the Twin Cities that can cause costly delays. One problem is that property owners and developers find themselves wandering through a maze of red tape when seeking approval from local planning boards, zoning boards, city councils, township boards and state agencies. Timing is of the essence in any real estate matter, and it can be critical for zoning and other land use issues to be resolved as efficiently as possible.

Last week, a discussion was held in Minneapolis City Hall regarding this very problem. The discussion was organized by the Urban Land Institute of Minnesota and it was attended by city council members, staff members of Minneapolis' development agency, and representatives from real estate firms and developers.

Developers voiced concerns about obtaining approval from city neighborhoods. Minneapolis has 81 neighborhoods; St. Paul has only 17.

Part of the problem, developers say, is that each neighborhood organization operates in its own way. This makes it difficult for developers to know what to expect when approaching a neighborhood group in terms of timeline, budget and process.

In Minneapolis it is not required for developers to obtain approvals from neighborhood organizations, but many people are not aware of this. And, often developers do prioritize neighborhood approval as it is generally mutually beneficial for a development to be in good standing with its neighborhood.

The head of the city council's Zoning and Planning Committee, Lisa Bender, agreed that the development process does need more consistency in Minneapolis, according to a StarTribune report.

It remains to be seen whether any steps will be taken to streamline and simplify the relationships between developers and neighborhood groups. For now, developers as well as residential property owners are wise to obtain legal counsel when dealing with land use issues in order to protect their interests.

Source: Star Tribune, "Dealings with neighbors stop Mpls. projects, developers say," Eric Roper, May 10, 2014

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