Standoff over development continues

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By JANE McCLURE

The St. Paul City Hall standoff over the Lexington Station mixed-use development continues. The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office won’t be asked to weigh in on whether Mayor Melvin Carter could legally veto City Council action denying the project site plan. In a May 13 letter to city council members, City Attorney Lyndsey Olson also explained that Carter’s veto is a valid exercise of his authority under the city charter.
The $57 million project, which includes 288 apartments, 254 parking spaces and 3,000 square feet of first-floor commercial space, can go ahead, said Olson.
But it could face a legal challenge. At a recent press conference, Frogtown Neighborhood Association Co-Director Caty Royce said opponents would sue to block the project. That district council is one of many organization opposing the project. Other groups opposing the project include Summit-University Planning Council, Midway RiseUp, the Alliance and Black Ministerial Alliance.
Developer Alatus has indicated that about half of its units would meet the definition of affordable housing. Foes have pushed back, saying those designated studio and one-bedroom units wouldn’t help families struggling to find housing.
The project at 411-417 N. Lexington Parkway has become a flash point in debate over housing affordability, gentrification and displacement. The fight over the project has drawn in property owner Wilder Foundation.
Because the developer isn’t seeking city funding and needed no variances or zoning change, only site plan review is needed. A site plan was filed in late 2020.
The Planning Commission rejected the site plan on an 7-8 vote; the council rejected the developer’s appeal on a 4-3 vote.
Carter vetoed the denial April 14. Without a fifth vote, the council couldn’t override the veto within 30 days.

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