Summary (below) as MS Word document
Critical overlay districts MS Word document
PLANNING & ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Tony Schertler, Interim Director
CITY OF SAINT PAUL
25 West Fourth Street
Christopher B. Coleman, Mayor
Saint Paul, MN 55102
RIVER CRITICAL AREA
TASK FORCE REPORT
A Summary for Public Discussion
Saint Paul’s Mississippi River Critical Area
Zoning Overlay District
The Mississippi River Critical Area, which runs 72
miles from Ramsey to Hastings, was established in 1976 pursuant to state
law. The Critical Area has environmental and scenic standards
that operate through local zoning. Zoning codes up and down the
river must meet, at minimum, the standards of the state’s Critical Area
laws and the governor’s Executive Order that designated the area along
the Mississippi River.Under the state’s Critical Area rules, Saint Paul
first adopted a Comprehensive Plan chapter for the Mississippi River
Corridor in 1981, followed in 1982 by a new chapter of the Zoning Code.
It has overlay zones containing development requirements that
go beyond the normal zoning regulations that apply citywide. The
normal regulations, referred to as the underlying zoning, continue
to apply in the Critical Area, as well. Development is regulated
by both underlying and overlay zoning. In cases where the two
disagree, the stricter standard applies.
Saint Paul Mississippi River Critical Area Task Force
A new, updated Mississippi River Corridor Plan was adopted by the City
in 2002. It embraced the City’s new vision for the riverfront
and incorporated changes required by the DNR. In 2004, the Saint
Paul City Council created a task force to make recommendations to update
the River Corridor Overlay Zoning regulations as proposed in the 2002
plan. The task force has completed its draft of an updated River
Corridor chapter of the Zoning Code. This Summary presents the
major recommendations of the task force for public review before the
recommendations are put in final form and submitted to the City Council.
Purpose of the Critical Area Regulations
The purpose of the Critical Area regulations is to
protect, preserve and enhance the unique and valuable resources
of the River Corridor. These resources are natural, ecological,
and biological; they are also economic, historical, cultural, and scenic.
The river in Saint Paul is both a working river and a recreational destination.
The Critical Area in Saint Paul includes both urban development and
natural amenities of regional and national significance. The Critical
Area regulations attempt to balance these needs and opportunities for
land in the River Corridor, and to improve the synergy among them.
Key Task Force Recommendations for Critical
1. Separate Critical Area and Floodplain
The 1982 River Corridor regulations established
four overlay districts. But only two of them related specifically to the state’s
environmental and scenic guidelines for the Critical Area. The other two,
in the river bottoms, related to flood protection. The task force recommends separating
the two types of regulations: the floodway and flood fringe will have its own
set of standards, which are almost entirely dictated by federal and state agencies,
and the Critical Area overlay zones will span the entire River Corridor.
Thus, both Critical Area and floodplain overlay regulations will apply to the bottomlands
that previously were subject only to floodplain regulations. (Updates to the floodplain regulations
are not part of this report. They are being drafted by City and DNR staff as a separate project.)
2. Use all four Critical Area zoning districts
provided for in state rules.
The state spells out four zoning districts throughout
the Critical Area--Rural Open Space, Urban Open Space, Urban Developed, and Urban Diversified.
In 1982 Saint Paul used only two of the four districts similar to the
state’s original classification: Urban Open Space was used for
parks and established low-density neighborhoods; Urban Diversified was
used for the downtown and industrial areas. ·
The task force recommends making use of all four districts, as follows:
Rural Open Space (CA1):
Pig’s Eye Lake
area (except sewage treatment plant and privately owned Red Rock properties,
which are in Urban Diversified)
Urban Open Space (CA2):
Large river parks and Highwood neighborhood
Urban Developed (CA3):
Established city neighborhoods
Urban Diversified (CA4):
high density redevelopment, and industrial areas.
The task force recommends prohibiting mining and motor vehicle salvage
in all four overlay districts. The task force also recommends
prohibiting all industrial uses in three of the four zones, allowing
them only in Urban Diversified (CA4).
The task force recommends zoning land that is upstream from Otto Avenue
and landward of Shepard Road and Mississippi River Blvd.
to the Urban Developed (CA3) district, and prohibiting industrial uses.
This recommendation would change the Ford Plant, other plants in the
West End, and the Crosby Lake Business Park from conforming land uses
to nonconforming uses.
Increase protection of riverbanks and wetlands.
downtown, new commercial and industrial development must be river-
related in order to locate within 300 feet of the river. Existing
along the river can expand, subject to natural resource protection.
shoreline buffer must be restored or created within 100 feet of the
river to protect water quality and the riparian ecosystem.
must be set back from 100 feet from the river (with exceptions for
public infrastructure, and barge and boating facilities).
Increase protection of bluffs and steep slopes.
bluffs, no structures are permitted (with exceptions for public infrastructure
and for barge and
boating facilities on riverbanks). Bluffs are defined as slopes
of 18 percent or steeper with a height of 16 feet or higher.
of bluffs, structures must be set back at least 40 feet. The 40-foot
setback is unchanged from the current
regulations, but it will apply to more properties because all of the bluffs, as currently
defined, exceed 25 feet high. At the toe of bluffs, structures must be at least
20 feet away from the bluff. This is
a new regulation.
steep slopes, no structures are permitted (with exceptions for public
infrastructure and for barge and boating facilities
on riverbanks). Very steep slopes are defined as slopes of 18
percent or steeper and a height of 9 to 16 feet. · On slopes
of between 12 percent and 18 percent, only single-family houses can be built. They must go through the site
plan review process and be designed to minimize erosion problems and
preserve native vegetation.
Highwood neighborhood (the CA2 district), structures near the crest
of very steep slopes
must have a setback that is based on the combined heights of the slope and structure.
changes in steep slope regulations would cause many houses to become
nonconforming with regard to height and setback
dimensions. Such houses can be enlarged in ways that do not increase
their dimensional nonconformity. If destroyed, such houses can
be rebuilt within one year. (Note: Percentage
of slope equals height divided by horizontal run: 12% equals a six foot
rise over a 50 foot run. 18 percent equals a nine foot rise over
a 50 foot run.)
Add to the regulations on grading, filling, and dredging.
alterations for development must be the minimum necessary, and must
implement erosion control measures and revegetation. Restoration
slopes cannot exceed 4:1 (a 25
for river navigation is regulated by federal and state agencies, but
dredging for any purpose other than river navigation will also be regulated
Strengthen City regulations regarding the management of vegetation.
must be managed to enhance the scenic beauty and natural qualities of
the river, to control erosion, and to restore plant and wildlife habitats.
native plants as well as non-native plants that are not invasive must
be maintained to the greatest extent possible; their disturbance must
be minimized. New development must be placed on the least vegetated
portion of the site.
permit applications to the City must include an inventory of the trees,
shrubs, and any habitats of endangered or threatened species done for
the proposed construction area. The inventory must be done by
a registered professional (plant ecologist, forester, landscape architect,
removed due to development must be replaced with native vegetation elsewhere
on the site. If on-site replacement is not possible, replacement
planting can be done elsewhere in the Critical Area, or a fee can be
paid into fund maintained by the Parks Department for vegetation replacement.
The amount of the fee would be based on the current value of the plants
removed, plus ten percent for administration.
cutting of trees and shrubs is prohibited, except the minimum amount
necessary for approved development.
of non-native, invasive species, e.g., buckthorn, and replacement with
native species is encouraged.
of the scenic quality of tree covered bluffs is very important.
On very steep slopes
and within 40 feet of blufflines, removal of the shrub and canopy layer
Houses and other development must have buffer plantings. Property
owners can prune
as necessary for the maintenance and health of trees or to remove nuisances or hazardous
conditions, but they must maintain buffer plantings and canopy cover.
Increase protection of water quality.
quality should meet or exceed state standards. No use of property
will be allowed that is likely to cause water pollution.
systems will not be permitted where public sewers are available.
Where a septic system is installed, it must be at least 75 feet from
the river and 40 feet from a bluffline.
must be designed to minimize both the rate and volume of stormwater
runoff, using the approved best management practices from state manuals.
runoff must be directed across vegetated areas before going to a storm
ponds are prohibited on bluffs and steep slopes or within 40 feet of
Establish more building height limits to protect views.
with City plans and an urban setting, new development should reflect
the River Corridor’s topography and natural setting by preserving public
and panoramic views of and from the river and bluffs.
heights in the Rural and Urban Open Space Districts (CA1 and CA2) will
be limited to 30 feet.
heights in the Urban Developed and Urban Diversified Districts (CA3
and CA4) will be limited to: 36 feet high within 200 feet of the
river; 48 feet high within 500 feet of the river; 36 feet high within
100 feet of the toe of a bluff. · Elsewhere
in the Urban Developed District (CA3), 48 feet maximum height.
in the Urban Diversified District (CA4), 60 feet maximum height.
are special height districts for the downtown side of the river from
the High Bridge to the Lafayette Bridge. Buildings cannot block
views from Kellogg Mall Park (Ramsey County Government Center East to
St. Peter Street). Below Kellogg Mall Park (Ramsey County Government
Center East to Wabasha Street), buildings heights are limited to 15
feet. The area below the Science Museum and the Upper Landing
area are limited to 60 feet in height.
are special height limits for the West Side Flats between Robert and
Wabasha Streets that are consistent with the City’s adopted West Side
Flats Master Plan. On the various blocks it allows buildings of
36, 48, 60, and 72 feet high.
redevelopment makes it possible to open up views of the river valley
down streets that are currently blocked from the river, e.g., Wacouta,
Wall, and Broadway Streets, the redevelopment must be designed, to the
extent possible, to open up the view for public enjoyment.
are specific exceptions to the height limits for bridges, transmission
lines, historic landmarks, river-dependent industrial facilities, and
publicly owned landmarks.
Require the dedication of land for parks, open space, and river access.
the Critical Area, the dedication of parkland or a fee in lieu of dedication
will be required when land is either platted or divided by lot split
for large single-family lots, for multifamily development, for commercial
or industrial parcels larger than one acre or larger than one-half acre
if the land is adjacent to the river. Twelve percent of the land
must be dedicated to the City, except that payments in lieu of land
cannot exceed $3,000 per residential unit. and, possibly, when development
increases residential densities. (As of 4/10/06, the task force
has not voted on this recommendation.)
permit requirements for approval of site plans, conditional uses, and
plan application and approval criteria are brought into the Critical
Area section of the Zoning Code. Applications will require more
detail on soil types, topography and vegetation. Site designs
must assess and minimize adverse effects while maximizing beneficial
effects on the Critical Area. The City can impose requirements
for site plans to meet Critical Area objectives, and this is also the
case for conditional use permits and variance.
Steps for Adoption of the New Critical Area
The task force was established by the City Council
and will make its report to the City Council. Because the recommendations
relate to the Zoning Code, the City Council will refer them to the Planning
Commission. The Planning Commission will study how the recommendations
relate to the City’s Comprehensive Plan, will hold a public hearing,
and will then submit its recommendation to the City Council. The
City Council will also hold a public hearing before acting on the amendments
to the Zoning Code.The amendments approved by the City will be sent
to the Metropolitan Council for its review and submitted to the DNR
for review and approval. The DNR, after receiving the recommendation
of the Metropolitan Council, can approve the zoning amendments or return
them to the City for modification. Final amendments will not become
effective until both the City and the DNR have approved them.
Public Review and Input Opportunities
During April and May, Critical Area Task Force members
are going to district council meetings to present these recommendations.
On Tuesday, May 30, the task force is going hold a public open house
and forum. Details about this meeting will be sent out soon.
The task force is also going to talk with affected public agencies and
with major property owners.