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GreenStep City Best Practices Land Use

Resilient City Growth
no. 7

Increase financial and environmental sustainability by enabling and encouraging walkable housing and retail land use.
  Best Practice Action 2      [ 1 2 3 4 5 ]       [all actions]

Achieve higher density housing through at least two of the following strategies:

a.  Incorporate a flexible lot size/frontage requirement for infill development.
b.  Use density and floor area ratio (FAR) bonuses in selected residential zoning districts.
c.  Clustered residential development; tie a regulatory standard to comprehensive plan language defining compact city expansion zones that limit low-density development.
d.  Allowing accessory dwelling units, senior housing, co-housing or tiny houses / apartments by right in selected zoning districts.
  • Here is one way a 500-acre urban walkshed -- the circle area accessible to the average person walking 10 minutues (1/2 mile) -- can evolve over time from an average density of 10 dwelling units per acre (DUA) to 30 DUA. (1) Add just 2 DUA (2 backyard cottages on each block) to 80% (400 acres) of the walkshed. (2) Take only 40 acres and develop a high property tax-generating, people-focused core of 180 DUA (6- and 8-story mixed-use buildings). (3) Surround the core with a belt of blocks (60 acres) at 60 DUA (a mix of townhouses, cottages, and small condos). From Carbon Zero cities (Alex Steffen: 2012 - search for "tentpole density").
  • Unlocking Home: Three Keys to Affordable Communities focuses on accessory dwelling units, rooming/boarding houses, and uncapping the number of roommates who may share a dwelling. Another density strategy is to lower the residential zoning requirement for minimum square feet per dwelling unit; Minneapolis dropped theirs to 390. The American Tiny Home Association has published guidelines for tiny home builders, which could be viewed as a model set of regulations for municipalities. View the 1-hour Regulatory Implications of Tiny Homes (Planetizen: 2017), a 1 AICP CM credit-approved online course. A related resource from 2013 is Policies for Shareable Cities: A Sharing Economy Policy Primer for Urban Leaders. A Shareable Cities resolution of support was adopted by the US Conference of Mayors in 2013.
  • See a national resource on accessory dwelling units, a Strong Town guide to making ADU's legal and easy, the Ventura Village (Minneapolis) carriage housing initiative, and background on cohousing, a specific residential building form, and also a type of intentional community. Defining characteristics include private homes for all ages supplemented by common facilities, and resident participation and management.
  • Note that short-term rentals on platforms such as AirBnB and VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner), while adding lodging options, income and vitality to neighborhoods, can have negative impacts. Cities may need common sense rules to protect true home-sharers while reining in commercial operators who can reduce affordable housing options and diminish the quality of life in residential neighborhoods.
  • Missing Middle housing includes a variety of building types: duplexes, triplexes, courtyard apartments, bungalow courts, carriage houses, work/live units, townhouses and more.
  • See also implementation tools for action 7.1
Use a process/ordinance (planned unit development or other) that allows increased density and approves development on substandard lots through flexible frontage and lot sizes; create a density bonus in one residential or commercial zoning district; allow accessory dwelling units in one single-family zoning district or overlay area.
Have a residential cluster development ordinance/process; have a density bonus in multiple areas in the city; bonus for underground parking or proximity to transit or multifamily playground space; allow accessory dwelling units and/or co-housing developments in multiple single-family districts; allow tiny houses (~400 sq. ft.) on small lots or small (~350 sq. ft.) apartments.
Create an additional density bonus linked to a transfer of development rights program that protects agricultural or natural resource land on the fringe of the urban area. Tie ADUs explicity into a plan for increasing affordable housing and/or reducing homelessness. Allow rooming or boarding houses; uncap the number of roommates who may share a dwelling unit.


Date action report first entered:   02/05/2019
Date of last report update:   02/05/2019
Action completed after joining GreenStep?   No

Implementation details:
The PUD district permits lot flexibility and would allow a density bonus of up to 25 percent for hte provision of affordable housing. The PUD district also permits desity transfer within a development to preserve natural features. The Bluff Creek Overlay District requires the use of density transfer for the preservation of primary creek corridor. The RLM district permits smaller lot sizes with the preservation of significant,natural, upland areas.

Descriptive links: https://library.municode.com/mn/chanhassen/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=CICO_CH20ZO_ARTVIIIPLUNDEDI

For more information contact:
Jill Sinclair (City staff)   |   jsinclair@ci.chanhassen.mn.us   |   952-227-1133

View All Chanhassen Actions


Date action report first entered:   11/30/2015
Date of last report update:   11/30/2015

Implementation details:
On October 1, the Planning and Zoning Committee met and reviewed a draft Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) survey as a result of a robust discussion at their September 3rd meeting. On November 5, 2015, the group reviewed the survey results (attached). It was noted there was quite a variety of replies. The Committee decided it would move forward with the topic, but take their time, seek input from other members who were not at the meeting.

Outcome measures/metrics:
Discussion will continue on whether a change to the zoning ordinance is a proactive and favorable approach to creating a more efficient use of existing housing stock and public investment.

            view file

For more information contact:
Cynthia Smith-Strack (Contractor)   |   cstrack@municipaldevelopmentgroup.com   |   507-964-2378

Planning & Zoning Committee

View All Arlington Actions


Date action report first entered:   05/01/2015
Date of last report update:   05/01/2015

Implementation details:
Practice 7, Action 2(d):Adoption of tiny houses in the Land Use Plan will be completed by May 2015, Land Use Plan Revision Practice 7, Action 2 (c) Land Use Plan. Adopted February 12, 2007. See Introduction section of Plan. Pages i-ii.

Descriptive links: http://www.jpbgba.org/vertical/sites/%7B134ED1DD-8F5D-4B72-9D00-AFD6CD25F943%7D/uploads/JPB_Land_Use_Plan_-_Updated_3-9-2011(1).pdf

For more information contact:
Michelle Miller (City staff)   |   michelle.miller@ci.bemidji.mn.us   |   218-759-3561

View All Bemidji Actions


Date action report first entered:   01/31/2018
Date of last report update:   01/31/2018
Action completed after joining GreenStep?   No

Implementation details:
The City of Bloomington includes FAR bonuses in their high intensity mixed use. Additionally, accessory dwelling units are allowed by right in some districts in the City of Bloomington.

Descriptive links: https://www.bloomingtonmn.gov/sites/default/files/media/ADU%20Agenda%20Staff%20Report.pdf

For more information contact:
Steve Gurney (City staff)   |   sgurney@BloomingtonMN.gov   |   952-563-4606

View All Bloomington Actions

Cottage Grove

Date action report first entered:   04/03/2012

Implementation details:
Cottage Grove permits site development flexibility through the Planned Unit Development or Planned Development Overlay zoning process. Density bonuses are available in multi-family districts. An accessory dwelling unit is allowed in all residential zoning districts.

For more information contact:
Ryan Burfeind (City staff)   |   rburfeind@cottage-grove.org   |   651-458-2899

View All Cottage Grove Actions

Elk River

Date action report first entered:   11/24/2010

Implementation details:
A) The City has established a PUD process that provides flexibility from strict zoning requirements in an effort to more efficiently use city services and infrastructure. C) The City has also established a cluster development process which is intended to cluster rural residential in an area to preserve natural resources. Windsor Park, Meadow Woods Village, and Ridges of Rice Lake are examples of our cluster developments. This is mentioned in various sections of the Comprehensive Plan.

For more information contact:
Amanda Bednar (City staff)   |   ABednar@ElkRiverMN.gov   |   763-635-1068

View All Elk River Actions

Golden Valley

Date action report first entered:   06/27/2017
Date of last report update:   06/27/2017
Year action initially completed:   2007
Action completed after joining GreenStep?   No

Implementation details:
Density bonuses are allowed in the Medium Density Residential Zoning District (R-3) for providing underground parking, locating near a transit route, or providing substantial recreation facilities onsite. Senior and physical disability housing in the R-3 Zoning District may be allowed a density in excess of 12 units per acre or up to 5 stories or 60 feet in height after review by the Planning Commission and approval by the Council. The Planned Unit Development (PUD) Ordinance allows for increased density.

Descriptive links: http://www.goldenvalleymn.gov/zoning/map.php

For more information contact:
Jason Zimmerman (City staff)   |   jzimmerman@goldenvalleymn.gov   |   (763)-593-8099

View All Golden Valley Actions


Date action report first entered:   04/27/2016
Date of last report update:   04/27/2016

Implementation details:
Flexible lot size/frontage requirement for infill development allowed through Planned Residential Development regulations and within the R-4, RMU, and DC Zoning Districts. Accessory dwellings allowed per achievement of minimum lots size for a 2nd dwelling unit in the R-2 an R-3 Zoning Districts.

For more information contact:
John Hinzman (City staff)   |   jhinzman@hastingsmn.gov   |   651-480-2378

View All Hastings Actions

Inver Grove Heights

Date action report first entered:   05/06/2016
Date of last report update:   07/05/2017
Year action initially completed:   2002

Implementation details:
The City of Inver Grove Heights regular Zoning Ordinance (2002) allows for accessory dwelling units in single-family zoning districts throughout the city. Our Northwest Area Ordinance (2007) allows for increased density and approves development on substandard lots through flexible frontage and lots sizes.

For more information contact:
Ally Hillstrom (City staff)   |   ahillstrom@invergroveheights.org   |   651-604-8511

View All Inver Grove Heights Actions

New Brighton

Date action report first entered:   05/03/2016
Date of last report update:   05/03/2016

Implementation details:
(2a) New Brighton has used the Planned Unit Development process in the City’s New Brighton Exchange redevelopment area to encourage higher density housing by allowing flexible minimum lot size and frontage requirements. The Enclave at New Brighton Exchange is the most recent example of implementation of flexible lot size/frontage requirements for infill development. (2b)New Brighton’s Planned Residential Development ordinance allows a density bonus in all residential districts of up to 150% for any housing serving the elderly. New Brighton’s B-4, Downtown Business district, which permits residential uses, does not provide any maximum density or floor area ratio limitations.

For more information contact:
Craig Schlichting (City staff)   |   craig.schlichting@newbrightonmn.gov   |   651-638-2056

View All New Brighton Actions

New Hope

Date action report first entered:   04/01/2015
Date of last report update:   11/19/2018
Action completed after joining GreenStep?   No

Implementation details:
The city offers density bonuses in residential districts for things such as providing underground parking, proximity to public transit, incorporating a outdoor play area for multi-family projects, etc.

Descriptive links: https://www.municode.com/library/mn/new_hope/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=CD_ORD_CH4ZO_S4-8HIDEREDI

For more information contact:
Jeff Alger (City staff)   |   jalger@ci.new-hope.mn.us   |   763-531-5119

View All New Hope Actions


Date action report first entered:   05/18/2011

Implementation details:
Rochester's zoning ordinance incorporates three of the four suggested strategies. It has flexible frontage and lot size standards, makes density bonuses available in four of six residential districts, and allows accessory apartments in the same four districts 9one of which, R1-x, is the default district on annexation).

Outcome measures/metrics:
average density of new development average lot size for new development

Descriptive links: http://www.co.olmsted.mn.us/planning/ordinances/Documents/City%20Rochester/CityLDM.pdf

For more information contact:
Jeff Ellerbusch (City staff)   |   ellerbusch.jeff@CO.OLMSTED.MN.US   |   507-328-7132

View All Rochester Actions

Apple Valley

Date action report first entered:   03/19/2012

Implementation details:
Apple Valley permits flexible lot sizes through the Planned Development zoning process, density bonuses in multifamily districts, and accessory dwelling units by right in Planned Development districts.

For more information contact:
Charless Grawe (City staff)   |   CGrawe@ci.apple-valley.mn.us   |   952-953-2508

View All Apple Valley Actions


Date action report first entered:   04/03/2012

Implementation details:
Lot size: Adoption of Zoning ordinance, minimum 40' lot frontages for existing parcels, 60' for others Compact city expansion: Adoption of Plan, in Future Land Use map

For more information contact:
Janet Anderson (Community volunteer)   |   janetanderson2840@gmail.com   |   5072190680

Craig Hoium

View All Austin Actions


Date action report first entered:   05/04/2012

Implementation details:
Burnsville allows a flexible lot size/frontage for Planned Unit Developments District. Density bonus & FAR bonuses are allowed for Planned Unit Developments, MIX and HOC. Under the General Provisions, development on residential lots that meet 70% of the lot sized standard in the district is allowed. Development is also allowed on all lots of record in commercial/industrial districts. A regulatory standard limits low-density development, as showing in the MIX Zoning Distric, and the HOC Zoning District.

Outcome measures/metrics:
The zoning districts are part of the zoning ordinance. The best way to view the zoning ordinance is on line at www.burnsville.org then click on City Code. The entire zoning ordinance is Title 10. Each specific zoning district has its own chapter within the zoning ordinance. Please note that we are still in the process of implementing our comprehensive plan updates and that on the zoning map, the areas that show up as R3C  Regional Center Residential will be changed to MIX zoning in a couple of months. Also, there is an existing MIX district at Valley Ridge where the Dakota CDA/Presbyterian Homes Valley Ridge assisted care/memory care and independent living mixed use project is under construction. (The site is located SW of the intersection of CSAH 5 and Burnsville Parkway on land that was formerly Valley Ridge Shopping Center.

Descriptive links: www.burnsville.org

For more information contact:
Sue Bast (City staff)   |   basts@ci.burnsville.mn.us   |   952-895-4524

View All Burnsville Actions

Columbia Heights

Date action report first entered:   12/19/2014
Date of last report update:   12/19/2014

Implementation details:
The City's current residential redevelopment project, Grand Central Lofts, only allows condo and town home development on the lot (see link). Past residential redevelopment also focused on town home lots such as the Park View project as reported in the Comprehensive Plan (http://mn-columbiaheights.civicplus.com/DocumentCenter/Home/View/266) page 6. In addition, the City always has had small lots as allowing in the Code (see attached excepts).

Descriptive links: http://mn-columbiaheights.civicplus.com/index.aspx?NID=195             view file

For more information contact:
Jesse Davies (City staff)   |   Jesse.Davies@ci.columbia-heights.mn.us   |   763-706-3706

View All Columbia Heights Actions

Coon Rapids

Date action report first entered:   01/03/2015
Date of last report update:   01/03/2015

Implementation details:
Coon Rapids' zoning code provides for flexibility in lot sizes/frontages for infill development in a couple ways. First, small-lot single-family homes that are part of a common-interest community are allowed as a planned unit development in single-family residential zoning districts. Second, small-lot single-family homes are allowed along with other attached housing in an overlay district along the Coon Rapids Boulevard corridor, which is a primary redevelopment and growth area of the City. Apartments and other types of attached housing are allowed in several zoning districts: the Riverdale Transit Station District, PORT redevelopment District, Moderate Density Residential District, and High-Density Residential District.

For more information contact:
Matt Brown (City staff)   |   mbrown@coonrapidsmn.gov   |   763-767-6422

View All Coon Rapids Actions


Date action report first entered:   09/07/2016
Date of last report update:   09/07/2016

Implementation details:
The Zoning Code provides a density bonus for planned unit developments. Planned unit developments also allow for flexible lot sizes and frontages.

For more information contact:
Anne Norris (City staff)   |   Anne.Norris@crystalmn.gov   |   763-531-1140

View All Crystal Actions


Date action report first entered:   01/13/2011

Implementation details:
These practices are complete and ongoing. Through it's planned development zoning category, the City can permit flexibility where necessary, particularly in infill developments. The City's Comp Plan designates three mixed use special areas that encourage higher density housing and more efficient land use intensities as infill and redevelopment may occur.

For more information contact:
Eric MAcbeth (City staff)   |   emacbeth@cityofeagan.com   |   651/675-5330

View All Eagan Actions


Date action report first entered:   04/28/2016
Date of last report update:   04/28/2016

Implementation details:
In the downtown district,apartments are allowed above existing businesses.

For more information contact:
Harold Langowski (City staff)   |   elyod@ely.mn.us   |   218-226-5474

View All Ely Actions


Date action report first entered:   08/05/2011

Implementation details:
2a)The B-2 downtown business district requires a minimum lot size of 5,000 sf and a lot width of 50 feet. The Riste Lot in downtown Farmington is a infill lot that contains 3,484 sf and a 40 ft lot width. This lot will require a variance when it is developed allowing a flexible lot size/ frontage for infill develoment. 2d) Accessory dwelling units are allowed in the downtown single-family residential district on lots at 6,000 sf or more.

Outcome measures/metrics:
Infill development has flexible requirements in order to have development occur on the site and accessory dwelling units provide options to homeowners.

Descriptive links: http://sterlingcodifiers.com/codebook/index.php?book_id=463

For more information contact:
Adam Kienberger (City staff)   |   akienberger@ci.farmington.mn.us   |   651-280-6820

View All Farmington Actions


Date action report first entered:   08/12/2016
Date of last report update:   08/12/2016

Implementation details:
We have a PUD overlay Zoning that allows and encourages more density within certain zoing. We also encourage mix use commerical and residential within our C-2 Downtown District with a CUP.

            view file

View All Jordan Actions


Date action report first entered:   08/26/2015
Date of last report update:   09/24/2015

Implementation details:
Neighborhood single family destiny at 7 units per new acre or greater

Descriptive links: BP 7 Number 2

For more information contact:
Peggy McNamara (City staff)   |   pmlexington@comcast.net   |   763-784-2792

View All Lexington Actions


Date action report first entered:   05/03/2013

Implementation details:
The City of Mankato offers Floor Area Ratio bonuses within the Central Business District-Core and Central Business District-Fringe zoning districts. While primarily commercial, residential is allowed and encouraged above the ground floor through Conditional Use Permit process. Floor Area Ratio incentives utilized for several recent and forthcoming redevelopment projects have been critical to these and has brought an increased residential component to the downtown core and contributed to the mixed-use vitaility of the area. We also utilize the Planned Unit Development process. A planned unit development is intended to encourage the efficient use of land and resources, to promote greater efficiency in public and utility services, and to encourage innovation in the planning and building of all types of development. A planned unit development may be approved by the City Council following a review and recommendation by the Planning Agency. See Mankato City Code for more information - http://www.mankato-mn.gov/CityCode/Section-10.93.aspx

Descriptive links: http://www.mankato-mn.gov/CityCode/Section-10.43.aspx

For more information contact:
Molly Westman (City staff)   |   mwestman@mankatomn.gov   |   507-387-8571

View All Mankato Actions


Date action report first entered:   02/23/2011
Date of last report update:   05/01/2015

Implementation details:
Maplewood encourages higher density housing through the incorporation of flexible lot size/footage requirement for infill development and the usage of density and floor ratio bonuses in selected residential zoning district.

For more information contact:
Michael Martin (City staff)   |   michael.martin@maplewoodmn.gov   |   651-249-2303

View All Maplewood Actions


Date action report first entered:   07/19/2012

Implementation details:
The City Council approved an ordinance amendment to add regulations for its MX-3 Transit Oriented District at its June 21 City Council meeting. This district does not allow single-family houses and requires residential properties to be between a density of 30 units/acre and 50 units/acre. The FAR for residential and non-residential uses in this district is 0.5.

View All Newport Actions


Date action report first entered:   03/07/2012

Implementation details:
Rosemount's Planned Unit Development (PUD) ordinance can be found in Section 11-10-6. This ordinance allows for a process for flexible frontage, lot sizes and density bonuses.

Outcome measures/metrics:
The City's PUD ordinance was used to develop the Glendalough, Harmony, and Meadows of Bloomfield neighborhoods.

Descriptive links: http://tinyurl.com/7d5c9xk

For more information contact:
Anthony Nemcek (City staff)   |   anthony.nemcek@ci.rosemount.mn.us   |   651-322-2090

View All Rosemount Actions


Date action report first entered:   02/14/2014

Implementation details:
Utilized city lot next to Marshall County Group Home lot for installation of geothermal heat sink to allow new group home to have lower heating and cooling costs moving forward. Building twin townhomes utilizing infrastructure more effiecently,

Outcome measures/metrics:
Lower heating and cooling costs for hot water, heat and cooling of the Marshall County Group home moving forward. Good use of existing non buildable lot owned by city for putting in Geothermal heat sink. Better use of land and infrastructure in developing twin homes.

Descriptive links: Marshall County Group Home Geothermal Project/Warren Twin townhome project

For more information contact:
Shannon Mortenson (City staff)   |   shannonm@warrenminnesota.com   |   218-745-5343

City of Warren EDA/Private developers

View All Warren Actions

White Bear Lake

Date action report first entered:   01/24/2013

Implementation details:
The city encourages higher density housing by allowing use density and floor ratio bonuses.

For more information contact:
Connie Taillon (City staff)   |   ctaillon@whitebearlake.org   |   651-429-8564

View All White Bear Lake Actions

Saint Anthony pending

Date action report first entered:   05/05/2011

Implementation details:
The City incorporates a flexible lot size/frontage requirement for infill development.

For more information contact:
Jay Hartman (City staff)   |   jay.hartman@ci.saint-anthony.mn.us   |   612-782-3314

View All Saint Anthony Actions

Fergus Falls pending

Date action report first entered:   01/14/2016
Date of last report update:   01/14/2016

Implementation details:
The City of Fergus Falls is researching this at the current time.

For more information contact:
Len Taylor (City staff)   |   len.taylor@ci.fergus-falls.mn.us   |   218-332-5418

View All Fergus Falls Actions

pending means a star rating has not yet been assigned to this city

greenstep advisor
Brian Ross, Senior Communities Program Director, Great Plains Institute: 612/767-7296, bross@gpisd.net, https://www.betterenergy.org/who-we-are/staff-and-consultants/