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Another Benefit of Zoning Reform: More Flexibility for Historic, Non-Conforming Uses

Non-conforming uses, usually historic buildings that predate the strictures of 20th century zoning codes, can get a little more comfortable under the reforms approved by the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan.
July 10, 2019, 8am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Homes built in the 1880s line Milwaukee Avenue in Minneapolis.
Steve Skjold

"The wave of zoning changes sweeping U.S. cities has an added benefit," writes Bill Lindeke from Minneapolis, the city leading that sweep of reforms since passing the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan.

The silver lining for many property owners: more space for historic properties that were "marginalized" by exclusionary zoning codes of the 20th century, known as non-conforming uses.

"Most descriptions of the Minneapolis 2040 reforms focus on how new rules might catalyze new buildings in the single-family zoned neighborhoods, but equally important is the fact that the new rules will 'legalize' and accommodate so-called nonconforming uses, the hundreds of existing historic buildings that predated the code in the first place," according to Lindeke.

As noted in the remainder of the article, the reforms of Minneapolis are also spreading over to St. Paul, where "planners are looking at the city’s historic Frogtown neighborhood north of University Avenue as a test case for zoning changes. Planners want to change the area’s single-family zoning to make the code better fit the area’s historic buildings."

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Published on Tuesday, July 9, 2019 in MinnPost
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