Rezoning University Village area stirs controversy

Robyn Repya

A local neighborhood group voted unanimously Monday to employ a lawyer to contest the rezoning of the University Village space formerly home to the Campus Grind coffee shop.

The Prospect Park and East River Road Improvement Association’s Executive Committee opposes rezoning the site to allow liquor at a second Leaning Tower of Pizza restaurant in the Twin Cities.

The space was rezoned from OR2 to C3A, which many in the surrounding neighborhood said is inappropriate.

The Executive Committee maintains it has no problem with the restaurant, but it does with the rezoning.

“C3A zoning is not appropriate for that site; liquor has never been allowed there,” said Florence Littman, the association’s Zoning Committee co-chairwoman.

“Rezoning shouldn’t be done solely in the interest of one property owner – that’s spot zoning,” she said.

Second Ward City Council Member Joan Campbell said the rezoning was appropriate.

“It’s exciting that a restaurant of that stature wants to move into the 2nd Ward. It required rezoning, but there’s similar zoning across the street so it’s not spot zoning,” she said.

According to the Minneapolis Zoning Office, the OR2 level allows for properties to have residential units including dorms, small retail shops and dental offices. Restaurants are also allowed, but they must have a capacity of no more than 30 and must be alcohol-free.

A C3A zoning allows for liquor stores, nightclubs and restaurants, which can serve alcohol.

In a letter to the Minneapolis Planning Commission, the neighborhood group stated: “A restaurant serving alcohol is not compatible in the lobby of a densely populated student dorm, two-thirds of which is rented by the University of Minnesota.”

The Planning Commission – made up of area residents – is the first step in the rezoning process. The commission sided with the improvement association and
recommended denial of the rezoning request in May.

The request then went to the City Council’s Zoning and Planning Committee, which voted to approve rezoning.

As a result, the University is amending its lease with University Village to exclude development of tobacco shops, night clubs or general entertainment.

“We certainly don’t want a bar or saloon there, but the University will permit alcohol if it is incidental to the operation of the restaurant,” said Susan Weinberg, coordinator of property acquisition for the University.

Campbell did not discuss neighborhood concerns with the Zoning and Planning Committee. She attended a neighborhood meeting before the Zoning and Planning meeting where residents voted 22-0 against rezoning.

“Council members had all the information from the Planning Commission and PPERRIA,” she said.

Paul Zerby, Campbell’s opponent for the 2nd Ward seat in the upcoming City Council election, disagrees with Campbell.

“Campbell just flat-out disregarded strongly expressed wishes of the Prospect Park neighborhood residents,” he said.

Khosrow Daivari owns the Leaning Tower of Pizza Restaurant and Bar in Uptown and Sophia’s Restaurant and Bar in St. Anthony Main near the University.

Daivari said he is excited about the new store. “The location is good for selling a lot of pizza.”

Renovation of the space will begin next week in preparation for the restaurant’s December opening.

 

Robyn Repya covers East Bank
neighborhoods and welcomes comments at [email protected]