Anoka tweaks rules for new development around rail station

A few changes to rules that will guide redevelopment around Anoka’s Northstar Rail Station will allow more flexibility for new commercial and retail buildings.

The Anoka City Council unanimously approved changes to the transit oriented district earlier this month that will allow for floor area ratios of less than 0.75, allows parking to be located in front of buildings and reduces the amount of stone or brick exterior materials required.

Councilmember Steve Schmidt, who owns property in the transit oriented district, abstained from the discussion and the vote.

“The changes were made to make the sites ready for development so developers wouldn’t have request variances on their own,” said Associate Planner Crystal Pauman.

She said the city already has a master plan for development around the rail station in place, giving developers an idea of what they could build.

But those plans weren’t consistent with what was allowed, or required, by city ordinance.

Changes were made to the floor area ratio – the measure of how much square footage can be built on a piece of land.

The ordinance was amended to change the floor area ratio from 0.75 to 0.50. Allowing a smaller building in relation to the size of the lot will enable developers to comply with parking, open space and setback code regulations, according to Pauman.

Another change was made to compensate for parking in front of buildings in the district.

Rules in the ordinance did not allow for parking to be located within the front yard of a building and the street.

But with some of the streets having multiple sides or the orientation of the building is to the river, that can be difficult to achieve, according to Pauman.

The amended ordinance has a list of criteria to consider for exceptions.

An adjustment was also made to change requirements relating to exterior building materials. The transit oriented district had required a minimum of 75 percent of the exterior materials of a building, except for the service side, must be brick, stone or decorative masonry.

Those numbers have been reduced depending on the use of the building and side of the building (public facade, side facade or interior facade).

The Homestead of Anoka, built by Volunteers of America in 2012, is an example of a building that did not meet the requirement for 75 percent of the building to be brick, stone or decorative masonry.

Those requirements would have led to much more expensive construction costs.

The Homestead of Anoka was approved as a planned unit development, which allows for regulations to be used as guidelines and thus did not require the approval of a variance.

A variance was granted in 2013 to reduce the amount of high-cost exterior materials required for the city’s new parking ramp at the real station, which is currently under construction.

Mandy Moran Froemming is at editor.anokaunion@ecm-inc.com

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