Votes Support School's Expansion Variances
Thursday, December 6, 2018 9:55 AM

An architect's rendering of the proposed TCGIS expansion, looking northwest from roughly Como Ave. and Argyle.
A standing-room only crowd of more than 200 voted on the school's variance requests.

At a meeting attended by more than 200 people, District 10’s Land Use Committee voted Dec. 5 to recommend approval of all three variances that Twin Cities German Immersion School is seeking for its proposed expansion.

Lot coverage
The Land Use Committee recommended approving a 1 percent variance in lot coverage. This will allow the school to increase its footprint to 36 percent of its property; current zoning code allows for maximum lot coverage of 35 percent. School buildings now occupy 32 percent of the property, according to City of Saint Paul staff. Approval of this variance was recommended on a 100-74 vote.

The Land Use Committee recommended approving a 3-foot, 1-inch height variance. This would allow the school addition, which would replace the former Saint Andrew’s church building, to reach 33 feet, 1 inch; current zoning code allows for a maximum height of 30 feet. (The former church, which the school calls the Aula, is 47 feet at the peak of its roof, and 38 feet, 6 inches at the midpoint of the roof, according to City of Saint Paul staff.) Approval of this variance was recommended on a 96-76 vote.

The Land Use Committee recommended approving a 37-space parking variance. The school’s site plan accounts for only 50 of the 87 off-street parking spaces that are required by code, based on the anticipated staff size at the expanded school.
The school anticipates 26 spaces in the existing west parking lot, 15 spaces that will be leased from Mission Orthodox Presbyterian Church across the street, and 9 spaces that will be offset by additional bicycle parking (an offset allowed under city code).
The 37 spaces that are unaccounted for likely would be absorbed by street parking in the surrounding residential blocks, or by staff taking alternate forms of transportation. Approval of this variance was recommended on a 101-76 vote.

Next steps
The recommendations by District 10 community members came during a 2-1/2 hour meeting that was moved to Mission Church to accommodate the standing-room-only crowd. The Land Use Committee recommendations now go to the full District 10 board, which can vote to accept, reject, or modify the variance recommendations at its regular monthly meeting Dec. 18. The board will forward its recommendations to the Saint Paul Planning Commission’s Zoning Committee, which is scheduled to consider the school’s site plan on Dec. 20. That committee’s recommendations go to the full Planning Commission on Dec. 28.
The district council vote is advisory; the Planning Commission is not obligated to go along with the district council’s recommendations.

Historic designation
Meanwhile, the campaign by Save Historic St. Andrew’s to preserve the former church building and add it to Saint Paul’s historic registry continues on a separate track. The city’s Heritage Preservation Commission ruled Nov. 5 that the building is eligible for historic designation. The city’s Planning Commission is scheduled to take up that decision at its Dec. 14 meeting.


District 10 Como Community Council | 1224 Lexington Pkwy N, Saint Paul, MN 55103 | 651.644.3889 | district10 [at]

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