Planning Agenda: 2023-12-14

UPDATE 2024-01-30: There is a Crains article concerning the 916 Benjamin Ave project, and its potential demise due to costs and financing, 👉here👈.

UPDATE 2023-12-15: All items on the agenda were approved. Stream can be found 👉here👈.

UPDATE 2023-12-07: The development at 916 Benjamin Ave was pulled from the agenda.

UPDATE 2023-11-29: Maps of current CC & TCC zones added,as well as map of the downtown overlay height district and excerpted land-use table. There is sill no narrative attached to the rezoning of Front & Scribner.

The Planning Commission's agenda for 2023-12-14 is 👉here👈.

805 & 825 Leonard St NE

This is a Special Land Use (SLU) by Hope Network to operate a residential rehabilitation facility within a Singe Family (LDR) zoned district. Cherry Health purchased this site from Blodgett St. John's and wished to relocate their 👉Community Alternative Program (CAP)👈 from its current location at 801 College ave. The structures on this site are currently vacant.



Little to no external changes to the existing structures are planned; this is almost entirely about a change of use. The facility will have fifty (50) to sixty (60) beds as well as food and support spaces for the residents.


916 Benjamin Ave NE

This item has been removed from the agenda.



This is a Special Land Use (SLU) request by Third Coast Development to demolish an existing vacant structure and construct three (3) sixteen (16) unit apartment buildings and a ~50 space surface parking lot in a Single Family (LDR) zone. Twelve (12) bike rake spaces will be included in the development, in total, spread across the site.

Site Plan

This appears to be an entirely vanilla, even boiler-plate, residential development. Yet, given the city's arbitrary zoning ordinance it still requires Special Land Use and ... you knew it was coming: a Parking Waiver. 😲 Every unit is provided a parking space, but that's just not enough. Remember the arbitrary formula the city uses to calculate parking requirements: any residential structure with three or more units must have 1.5 parking spaces per unit plus 0.25 spaces for every bedroom more than a second bedroom. Thus, this development requires a minimum of 72 parking spaces even before calculating for those third bedrooms; this development is at least 22 parking spaces below the minimum. Based upon long established precedent there is little doubt that a parking waiver will be granted; is not the pattern of consistently granting exceptions to the ordinance's requirement an unofficial admission that the current ordinance is absurd?

The site is located near the Rapid #13 route, and not far from either the Rapid#14 or Rapid#15, although Leonard (Rapid#15) cannot be reached by a straight path due to a broken street grid.

Front & Scribner Rezoning

This is a proposal, presumably from the Planning Department staff, to rezone the highlighted area from Transitional City Center (TCC) to City Center (CC). This is interesting as this area was recently part of an overlay district amendment. An "overlay district" is an additional layer of zoning ordinance used to make the regulation of land-use in an area even more convoluted than the base zoning ordinance provides for. The overlay district in question was amended in May of just this year (2023) to allow for greater building height. The overlay district changes in 2023 allowed ten (10) stories where seven (7) had previously been permitted and twenty (20) stories where ten (10) had previously been permitted. Previously heights approaching the maximums required earning additional floors through a tedious bonus scheme; a scheme which had never been utilized by a developer. The new maximum heights are allowed by-right, based solely on some very reasonable design standards. Since the modifications to the overlay district - albeit only ~6 months ago - zero projects of even the previously allowed scale have substantively moved forward.

The Monroe North neighborhood, on the east side of the river from this area, is currently zoned TN/CC; from Coldbrook St south. TN/TCC extends, on the east side from ColdBrook St to Knapp St (north) along Monroe Ave.

What is the difference between Transitional City Center (TCC) to City Center (CC) zones? The "CC" zone is defined in section 5.6.02.A and "TCC" is defined in 5.6.02.B of the ordinance. The "Downtown Height Overlay District" (OD-DH) is defined in 5.8.02 of the ordinance.

CC Zoning

Purpose Statement

The intent of this District is to maintain and enhance the vitality of downtown, reinforce its intense development pattern, provide compatible services near one another, allow diverse uses, and keep older, often historic, buildings in viable use. The compact development pattern of downtown establishes a pedestrian-oriented and transit-friendly environment. The City Center Zone District stresses pedestrian circulation, urban and civic design, protection of natural features, and encourages the reuse of existing buildings.


  • Ground floor residential requires Special Land Use.
  • Uses for education, adult day care, child care, community centers, youth centers, gaming halls / arcades, cinema and concert hall, marinas, bowling alleys, catering, social clubs, 24 hour retail, car share, inter-modal transportation or transit operation, are all permitted by-right.
  • Structures have no minimum set backs.
  • "Micro" residential units are allowed by-right.
  • Minimum height is three (3) stories.
  • No parking minimums; and, theoretically, a parking maximum.

TCC Zoning

Purpose Statement

The Transitional City Center (TCC) District is the buffer district between the dense City Center Zone District and surrounding near-downtown neighborhoods. This District provides a transition in the intensity of the downtown development pattern for adjacent areas, however, it allows for more development than would ordinarily be allowed in general neighborhood commercial locations. 


  • Ground floor residential is allowed by-right.
  • Uses for education, adult day care, child care, community centers, youth centers, gaming halls / arcades, cinema and concert hall, marinas, bowling alleys, catering, social clubs, 24 hour retail, car share, inter-modal transportation or transit operation, all require Special Land Use (SLU)
  • Residential units have a minimum size 750 sq/ft; this may be waived via Special Land Use.
  • Structures have a minimum set back of 10ft both rear and front.
  • Minimum height is two (2) stories.
  • Maximum height is four (4) stories .... but the overlay distinct, in this case, supersedes that limit.
  • Parking minimums specified in table 5.10.04.C. Essentially these are the same onerous and arbitrary minimums applied to the rest of the city.


Current TCC Zoning
Current CC Zoning
Downtown Overlay Height District(s)

Permitted Heights In Downtown Overlay Height District

Area Minimum Stories Maximum Stories
DH-1 3 No Limit
DH-2(a) 3 20
DH-2(b) 3 10