What happens if you are a commercial property owner located in the metropolitan area and you haven’t had a bite on your vacant land for months, maybe even years. Along comes a multifamily buyer who offers you a good price for your property. You might consider multifamily the highest and best use of your property since no one has made an offer based on the commercial designation of your property.

Can you simply change the land use designation on your property? Sure, if the city or other local jurisdiction agrees and forwards your request to the Met Council. This process usually takes around 120 days from the time an application is filed with the City – the application is then reviewed by the Planning Commission and City Council and forwarded to the Met Council for final review and action.

For the next couple of years, this process is a bit more complicated as cities and other local units of government work on updating their comp plans and particularly, the land use element of the plan. Within the land use plan is the specific designation of each parcel of land in the community for uses such as single family, multifamily, commercial, industrial, institutional, parks and open space. Every ten years, cities, counties, and townships within the seven-county metropolitan region must update their comprehensive plan document. In the current cycle of comp plan updates, the next deadline to submit for review by the Met Council is December 31, 2018.

To facilitate this process, the Met Council will stop reviewing individual applications to change the land use designation for specific sites beginning June 30, 2018, until the communities plan is reviewed and completed. This embargo, in effect, creates an incentive for early review and completion of comp plan updates, particularly in growing communities.

For our hypothetical multifamily development, there are two potential paths to approval of a land use change. First, the property owner could make application for an amendment of the land use plan prior to the embargo period. If the application is heard and approved before that date, then the change can go into effect prior to other amendments or the update of the entire comp plan document.

On the other hand, if the city is unwilling to make the individual change, then the property owner could plan to attend the public hearing on the comp plan update and persuade the City Council to make the change as part of its 10-year update. This will require a great deal more patience because the Met Council is in the process of reviewing plans for almost 200 local units of government.

If you would like to know the land use designation of your property or need more information about the comprehensive planning process in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan area, please feel free to contact Bill Griffith at 952-896-3290 or wgriffith@larkinhoffman.com.