A residential review board is not the right solution for Excelsior

There is a big debate going on right now in Excelsior.  New subjective regulations are being proposed including a new Residential Review Board panel to further restrict and control development in our town.  These rules are called the Good Neighbor Guidelines and are modeled after the rules and process used in 1/4th of Stillwater, MN, to preserve the area in their town that has similar era homes.  
Please click on the link below to see how this process is used in Stillwater, MN:
https://stillwater.govoffice.com/vertical/Sites/%7B5BFEF821-C140-4887-AEB5-99440411EEFD%7D/uploads/Stillwater_Conservation_District_Design_Guidelines02_20_06(1).pdf

The first thing you see after clicking this link are pictures of the beautiful 35 foot high, 2 to 3 story Victorian style homes built in Stillwater in the late 1800’s that they are trying to preserve there.  Their rules are set up to preserve and build homes that look exactly like those pictures in that limited section of their town.


Review boards are used in approximately 2% of cities and towns in the USA.  They usually are used to enforce strict conformance to specific objective standards as they are in Stillwater for height, width and setbacks.
What is being proposed here in Excelsior is a Residential Review Board which would operate as a zoning Czar completely independent of the Planning Commission and the Heritage Preservation Commission.  This zoning Czar would approve or reject projects based upon subjective not objective rules for our town which has no clusters of similar houses like you see in Stillwater.  In fact, in Stillwater, their guidelines are not implemented by a new review board – they are used by their existing historic preservation commission.  Also, even in Stillwater, their existing objective zoning rules which allow houses up to 35 ft, override the Good Neighbor Guidelines.  Regarding housing, there is not much in common between Stillwater and Excelsior except that we both have some older homes in our cities.


Our town has varying heights, widths, styles and era of homes.  One might consider that a subjective review board with this much power may not be the correct way to address mass and scale in Excelsior.  Maybe we only need to modify our existing objective zoning standards as the other approximately 98% of USA cities and towns do.    Our goal isn’t to make everything look the same.  People that live here like the variety of homes in town.


Recent Excelsior zoning panel expert, Thomas Bena, at his web site onebighome.com, shows the existing objective zoning standards used to provide reasonable zoning for homes in 12 cities throughout the USA.  Proposed changes to our zoning laws are more restrictive than those cities.

Simply stated, the rules and process used in Stillwater do not apply to Excelsior.   We don’t need to create an entirely new, intimidating process with concentrated power in an additional review board based upon subjective rules and personal opinions about how everyone should build their homes.  In Excelsior, we just need to change our zoning laws to the mass and scale we want for our city, it is that simple. 

Unite Excelsior is proposing zoning changes that do just that and no more.
For more information, please send your emails to:
info@uniteexcelsior.org

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