Hopkins joins neighbors, opts out of statute

by Gabby Landsverk, Sun Sailor Newspapers

The Hopkins City Council has adopted a resolution, at the recommendation of staff, to approve an ordinance opting out of a new state law regarding temporary family health care dwelling. According to a survey by city staff, many surrounding cities have also chosen to opt out, including St. Louis Park, Minnetonka and Excelsior.

The law, signed in May, requires cities to allow the use of temporary dwellings on residential lots for individuals with health care needs. Standards for the new law include that the dwellings be temporary, with no more than six months duration of use, and that the resident of the temporary dwelling must have a documented need for assistance. Dwellings are also subject to structure requirements, including a size of no more than 300 square feet, Elverum said. In addition, the city’s permit fees for the dwellings would be capped at $100 for the initial application and $50 for renewals and the city would have 15 days to review permit applications.
“This is a new state law that had good intent. It was to meet a need for transitional housing for people with mental or physical disabilities as well as the need for short term health care for aging family members,” said Director of Economic Development and Planning Kersten Elverum. “Other cities have voiced concerns about not being able to craft something that works in their particular situation.”

For Hopkins in particular, Elverum said small lot sizes have prompted worries about excessive density in residential areas. She added that other concerns include how the conditions of the law might be enforced, how the sensitive health data involved in applications would be protected and “a multitude” of other questions.
The resolution came before the council after the city Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously voted to recommend that the city opt out of the legal requirements.
“In the end, they determined it is not a good fit for Hopkins,” Elverum said.

The law will go into effect Sept. 1 for all cities that do not approve an ordinance to opt out and would preempt city and other local zoning regulations.
“The statute is so all-encompassing that it overrides everything we have,” said City Attorney Scott Riggs.

Elverum added that residents have not previously expressed interest in the type of temporary housing included in the new law.
“We haven’t heard that from the community, but if it’s out there and there is a need, we’d be glad to talk to people about what their options are,” she said.

The council unanimously voted to adopt the resolution.
“This has been reviewed by staff and council … it’s been looked at very, very closely, and while the intent may be good, it poses a lot of challenges,” said Mayor Molly Cummings. “I agree that if it’s something we want to pursue … we should look at it through our own ordinances and zoning.”

In other business, the Hopkins City Council appointed resident Fozia Ali, a graduate of the most recent Hopkins Citizens Academy, to the city Park Board.
“I believe serving on this commission will allow me to have a say about what goes on in our community and to help make our community a better place for all races, creeds and socioeconomic statuses,” Ali said in her application.

Cummings welcomed Ali to the board on behalf of the council.
“We’re so happy to have you on the park coard and look forward to your input and your ideas,” Cummings said. “There’s so much going on with the parks. We’ve got big plans.”

Contact Gabby Landsverk at [email protected]