Dinkytown house to be built despite moratorium

The first construction waiver for the University of Minnesota district moratorium was allowed by the city for a single-family home at 1120 Eighth St. in Dinkytown. The waiver, which was passed unanimously by the cityâÄôs Committee on Zoning and Planning on Oct. 30, allows construction to continue after several setbacks to property owned by Dinkytown Rentals , a company which has some concerned over building practices. The property, owned by Tim and Karen Harmsen of Dinkytown Rentals, was originally a single-family home, but was demolished with the intent of constructing a duplex in its place. The cityâÄôs zoning code requires properties zoned âÄúR2BâÄù to have 10,000 square feet of lot area to build a duplex, but this property is approximately 6,600 square feet. The city and the applicant overlooked this detail during the review process, and the foundation concrete was poured last spring before they were ordered to stop work. The Harmsens then applied for a variance from the city to continue, but they were met by opposition from the Marcy Holmes Neighborhood Association. Then the University District moratorium was introduced on Aug. 22, restricting the proposed building of the single-family home. Last monthâÄôs waiver opened the door for construction to continue. The current zoning on that property for a single-family home allows for one family, plus two unrelated people, to live there. Ward 2 Councilman Cam Gordon said the waiver was granted because the moratorium had caused hardship on the developer; the foundation had already been poured and winter could damage it, he said. Stanley Masoner, whose company, City Venture Corp ., is building the house, said the foundation cost $50,000. At the Committee on Zoning and Planning hearing , Tim Harmsen said a family would want to buy or rent the property. At the same hearing, Ward 3 Councilwoman Diane Hofstede told Tim Harmsen she hoped he was serious about considering selling the house to a family. She also said the design of the home is not consistent with what the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood wants. Melissa Bean , Marcy Holmes Neighborhood Association director, said although the neighborhood opposed the original plans for the duplex, they did not oppose the single-family home. Both Bean and Gordon said they think the home will be rented to students. Bean said the Harmsens, who own more than 50 properties in the area, already own some single-family homes that are rented to students. She said before the moratorium, buildings of a certain size went through a process called administrative review, which does not allow input from the neighborhoods. âÄúIn Mr. HarmsenâÄôs case, he got that administrative review approval all down Eighth Street, so instead of having just one little project, heâÄôs got eight projects now on Eighth Street that all look the same,âÄù Bean said. âÄúSo he basically changed the whole look of a block face on Eighth Street without any neighborhood input.âÄù Bean was referring to the new âÄúlodgesâÄù that Dinkytown Rentals built before the moratorium was established. Masoner said it was unfortunate the neighborhood opposed the duplex. âÄúThere are lots of other duplexes on much smaller lots in the Dinkytown area,âÄù he said. Masoner and Bean both said they look forward to working together on housing projects in the future. Masoner said these new houses are a positive thing for students because itâÄôs safe and modern housing. He said this will be one of the biggest single-family homes in Dinkytown. Bean said there was an alarming loss of original housing stock on Eighth Street and people in the neighborhood were shocked by it. âÄúThe moratorium gives the city and the neighborhoods a chance to figure out what weâÄôre going to do about that,âÄù Bean said. âÄúIs that a direction we really want to go?âÄù