City panel says no to ARC plan


The Salvation Army’s proposal to move its Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) from downtown Minneapolis to the former Despatch/ ZipSort Mailing building at Marshall Street and St. Anthony Parkway NE got a “thumbs down” from the Minneapolis City Planning Commission Oct. 3, even though Minneapolis planning staff had recommended that the project be approved.

The Salvation Army can appeal the Planning Commission’s determination to the Minneapolis City Council, through the Council’s Zoning and Planning Committee. ARC Administrator Bill Price could not be reached for comment late last week.

The ARC collects and distributes donated items; and houses, trains and employs more than 100 men who need some help entering or re-entering everyday society. The plan also calls for adding a residential wing to the St. Anthony Parkway building.

In an earlier interview, Price said program participants “live here, work here,” with a faith-based work therapy program that’s funded entirely by Salvation Army thrift store revenues it receives no government, foundation or other Salvation Army money.

People bring goods to donate, and Salvation Army trucks go out and pick up donations, which are brought to the ARC for processing.

The program participants stay there all the time, he said, so the facility has to include room to receive, process and ship the donations; plus room for lodging, recreation, counseling and chapels.

“We’re here to help anybody who has been knocked off their feet in life,” he said.

The building is zoned for medium industrial use, and is in one of the city’s seven Industrial Employment Districts (IED), which were established in 2006. To allow for the residential part of the project, the property would have to be rezoned with an “Industrial Living Overlay (ILOD).” And the city’s policy document for the IEDs calls on officials to “strongly discourage new residential uses” in those districts.

Planning Department staff, however, said the industrial and employment components of the project justify deviating from that policy. “The Planning Division believes that the proposed development is in conformance with [city policies]. Although The Salvation Army ARC would be establishing a new residential use in the IED it is just one component of the overall use. In total, 180 people would be employed at The Salvation Army ARC; 50 full-time employees and the 130 residents.

“The Planning Division recognizes that [city policy] strongly discourages new residential uses in an IED. The Planning Division believes that the City Council did not prohibit residential uses in an IED for unique situations such as this one.”

The Planning Commission disagreed, voting 3-2 to deny the rezoning. “Because it is an industrial area, it is inappropriate to put an ILOD there and residential in the center,” the commission’s decision said. “Specific geographic boundaries will clarify that industrial is the priority land use and uses that impede industrial businesses should not be permitted.”

The commission also cited “living wage jobs” as a reason for denying the rezoning, but did not elaborate on that reason.

The Salvation Army also applied for a conditional use permit, a zoning variance and a site plan review, all of which got favorable city planning staff recommendations. The commission denied them, stating that the rezoning was required to make them consistent with city rules, and that denying the rezoning precluded approving the other requests.

Planning Commission Member Liz Wielinski, who is also Northeast’s Park and Recreation Board commissioner, said she opposed the rezoning. Several years ago, she said, when the city was developing its master zoning plan, area residents asked if some of the nearby industrial land might be converted to housing in the future. “They said, ‘Absolutely not,’” she said. Residents were told that the city needed to plan and reserve whatever land it could for industry and jobs.

Also, “you don’t do spot zoning that looks like it’s just for the benefit of one proposal,” she said.

Update: The Salvation Army has appealed this decision to the Zoning and Planning Committee of the Minneapolis City Council, which will hold a public hearing on it Thursday, Oct. 27, 9:30 a.m. in Room 317 of Minneapolis City Hall, 350 South Fifth St.