Defend the 2040 Plan: Stop the Ivy-Zenith-32nd Conservation District

John Edwards
Aug 12, 2019 · 4 min read

There is a proposal put forward by Meg Forney, who is a Park Board commissioner, for a conservation district in her neighborhood. This would include 26 properties in the West Calhoun neighborhood in Ward 13. There is a Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) meeting on Tuesday, August 13th at 4:30 pm where they will vote to begin a process to study and develop guidelines for a potential Ivy-Zenith-32nd Conservation District.

After years of public engagement around the Minneapolis 2040 plan, the City Council designated this area adjacent to a future light rail station as the right place for more homes (it was designated Transit Corridor 10). This push to create a conservation district is a transparent attempt by lakeside property owners to nullify and opt out of the 2040 plan. Allowing a conservation district here would set a precedent that encourages others to seek special exemptions for their neighborhoods — thereby limiting access to jobs, transit, parks and schools. In order for the city to meaningfully tackle climate change, we need to reduce car trips. We do that by allowing people access to live in areas like this, just a five minute walk to a future light rail station.

Conservation districts are relatively new to Minneapolis. A conservation district is not a historic district. Historic districts tend to be politically unpopular with property owners because certain modifications to the property require a cumbersome approval process. The advantage of a conservation district is the properties don’t have to be historic; and homeowners retain more flexibility to update their property.

Because a conservation district can include limits to building bulk that are more restrictive than the zoning code, they are another avenue for “backdoor downzoning.” In other words, where attempts to limit housing opportunities via the zoning code are unsuccessful, anti-housing activists can abuse the city’s preservation process.

Another notable feature of the conservation district ordinance is that it only requires the approval of property owners. It’s a glaring example of how renters can be left out of the process that sets housing policy.

Minneapolis conservation district ordinance.

How you can help

Defend the 2040 plan and support more homes for more neighbors near transit by sending an email to John Smoley (the City staff member assigned to this project) to request the denial of the initiation of Ivy-Zenith-32nd Conservation District study. A brief sentence or two is enough:

  • I’m writing to encourage the denial of the Ivy-Zenith-32nd Conservation District PLAN9131 Study
  • The homes on these blocks are no more unique or special than the homes you find in neighborhoods throughout Minneapolis.
  • This is a five minute walk to a future Southwest Light Rail station. A $2 billion transit investment is not an appropriate location to restrict housing.
  • I oppose this transparent effort to allow a privileged part of the city to opt out from goals outlined in the 2040 plan. The 2040 plan was approved by the city council just eight months ago. Please reject this backdoor downzoning effort.
  • City climate policies call for reducing car trips, and that means not implementing a conservation district that restricts housing near a $2 billion transit investment.
  • There is a housing shortage and we need more homes. The intent of this conservation district is to preserve exclusionary zoning and deny much needed housing in a privileged part of the city.
  • This is an amenity rich area with access to jobs, transit, parks, and local businesses. Please reject the conservation district that would deny these opportunities to more residents.
  • We just had several years of outreach for the 2040 plan that involved all city residents. Now is not the time to initiate a conservation district process that only requires the approval of owners.
  • The conservation district process fails to include renter voices in setting important housing policy in Minneapolis.
  • I oppose wasting staff time and city resources to study a conservation district whose only purpose is to nullify the recently adopted 2040 plan.

Please send in your opposition to this conservation district and defend the hard work that went into passing the nationally-heralded Minneapolis 2040 plan. Email John Smoley,

We’ll continue to monitor this and keep you updated. If the study is initiated and then ultimately approved by the HPC, it would then go before the City Planning Commission (CPC) and City Council.

Neighbors for More Neighbors

Neighbors for More Neighbors is an advocacy group working…

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