News & Events

Rebecca Noecker Scorecard


In 2016 and 2017, the Summit Hill Association (SHA) and its Zoning and Land Use Committee (ZLU) worked on several issues affecting our neighborhood. In all cases, public comment was encouraged, with public meetings to learn more about the application from the applicant or the City of St. Paul, depending on the issue, and listen to neighbors’ concerns.  SHA subsequently took positions, making recommendations to the relevant City governing bodies. 

Five of these cases were appealed to the City Council. We were disappointed that in most cases, our City councilmember, Rebecca Noecker, did not support SHA’s position. As a district council, SHA is charged, among other things, with representing the overall neighborhood as a liaison with the City, and upholding the Zoning Code and other regulations, so this lack of support is a cause for concern.

SHA continues to reach out to Rebecca Noecker, and has asked that she and her staff make a greater effort to learn more about the Summit Hill neighborhood and the issues that are important to it, as reflected in the most recent Neighborhood Comprehensive Plan. Additionally, we have requested better communication and earlier participation in ongoing matters that SHA deals with, supporting us as we seek to adhere to the St. Paul Zoning Code and other regulations in a way that is both lawful and sensitive to the needs of both the neighborhood and the applicants. Finally, we have also asked for her leadership in obtaining adequate funding to meet our mission in all areas, as City funding has not increased in over a decade.



June 1, 2016:  1174 Grand Avenue Proposed Condominium Building

Summary:  In mid-2015, developers submitted a proposal for a condominium building at 1174 Grand, replacing a historic single-family house, which they tore down.  They requested the rezoning of the parcel from BC to RM2, plus substantial lot coverage and setback variances.  In July 2015 the Planning Commission approved rezoning, but not the variances, which were subsequently rejected by the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) and, in November 2015, by the City Council.  The developers returned with minor adjustments, reducing the proposed lot coverage by a total of 3 square feet.  The BZA approved the variances.  A group of neighbors appealed the decision to the City Council.

SHA Position:  From the beginning, SHA was against granting all but the front setback variance (making the building’s setback comparable to that of surrounding buildings) because the developers had not met most of the Zoning Code criteria required to grant the variances.  The building’s mass was a primary concern, as it would have been out of character with the rest of the neighborhood, as was the precedent set by approving such a building.  SHA supported the neighbors in their appeal.

Outcome:  Although the development was substantially the same as what the City Council had rejected in November 2015, the councilmembers who had been present for that vote reversed themselves and rejected the appeal.  Of the two new councilmembers, one—Jane Prince—voted to support the neighbors’ appeal.  Ward 2’s new councilmember, Rebecca Noecker, who had been kept up to date on SHA’s position, recused herself at the meeting and left the room under the grounds that she’d been involved in the Planning Commission vote the previous year.  SHA, with no advance knowledge that she was planning on doing this, was disappointed that it was not represented by its councilmember.

Rebecca Noecker Support of SHA?  NO


August 3, 2016:  975 Lincoln Avenue Proposed Enclosed Breezeway

Summary:  The homeowners applied to the City in May to build an enclosed breezeway connecting their house to a new 3-car garage they were building to replace the older, dilapidated one on the alley.  This would have required a 20.5 foot setback variance.  BZA denied the variance in May, and again in July when it was resubmitted with minor changes, finding that four of the six requirements for a variance in the Zoning Code had not been met.  The applicants appealed to the City Council, which rejected the appeal.

SHA Position:  SHA voted against granting the variance because it did not meet 3 of the 6 Zoning Code criteria for granting variances.  There was concern that such a structure would change the character of the neighborhood, and that alternatives for addressing the issues the applicant identified which would not have required a variance had not been considered.

Outcome:  The appeal for the variance was rejected by the City Council.  Ward 2 councilmember Rebecca Noecker voted against the appeal.

Rebecca Noecker Support of SHA?  YES


September 21, 2016:  210 S. Victoria Proposed Front Yard Garage

Summary:  The homeowner applied to the City in July to build a front yard garage, requiring two variances.  The first: to build a garage in the front yard, which is prohibited by the Zoning Code.  The second: a 16 foot front yard setback variance.  The case went to the BZA on August 15 and the variances were approved.  SHA appealed the decision on September 21 to the City Council, which rejected the appeal.

SHA Position:  SHA voted against granting the variances because it did not meet 3 of the 6 Zoning Code criteria for granting variances.  There was concern that such a structure would change the character of the neighborhood, and that alternatives for a front yard garage had not been considered by the applicant.  Furthermore, a similar application had been made by the owner of the house next store in November, 2012 and had been voted down by SHA and the BZA.

Outcome:  The appeal by SHA was rejected by the City Council.  Ward 2 councilmember Rebecca Noecker led the 6-1 vote against the appeal; only councilmember Jane Prince voted in favor.

Rebecca Noecker Support of SHA?  NO


December 1, 2016:  St. Paul Tennis Club Proposed New Buildings with Rooftop Deck

Summary:  In July the St. Paul Tennis Club (SPTC) applied to the City to replace its existing buildings and swimming pool, which were in disrepair and not ADA-accessible.  One of the buildings would have a rooftop deck, a new feature.  The plan went through numerous iterations before its final version, requiring a conditional use permit for what was a nonconforming legal use.  It was approved by the Planning Commission on October 28.  A group of neighbors appealed the decision to the City Council on December 7; the appeal was denied.

SHA Position:  SHA had very little time to react when it received notice of the Zoning Committee of the Planning Commission meeting, but called a public meeting two days ahead to hear public comment.  It received the City staff report and recommendations only hours before the meeting.  Given concerns expressed by neighbors regarding the potential negative impacts of the rooftop deck, ZLU recommended a condition to the permit requiring support by 60% of neighbors within 100 feet of the SPTC, in order to ensure that both sides were able to come to a mutual agreement about the deck and its use.  ZLU subsequently, prior to the Planning Commission vote, raised concerns regarding the lack of quorum for the Zoning Committee vote, and the apparent need for a nonconforming use permit for expansion and relocation rather than a conditional use permit, given the legal nonconforming status of the SPTC.  ZLU asked for a layover of the vote, with no response.

Outcome:  The Planning Commission rejected SHA’s proposed condition.  The appeal by the neighborhood group regarding the proposed rooftop deck and other issues was rejected by the City Council.  Ward 2 councilmember Rebecca Noecker led the 6-1 vote against the appeal; only councilmember Jane Prince voted in favor.  Noecker then volunteered to mediate an agreement regarding the deck and its use between the neighborhood group and the SPTC.

Rebecca Noecker Support of SHA?  NO

2016 Total:  Rebecca Noecker Support of SHA  YES—1  NO--3


April 19, 2017: Linwood Monroe Arts Plus Lower School Expansion

Summary: In the fall of 2016, the St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS) unveiled plans for a large expansion of the Linwood Monroe Arts Lower School, which required two substantial variances:

1. A building lot coverage variance to allow for a total of 39.5% lot coverage. The total allowable building lot coverage allowed by the zoning code is a maximum of 35%.

2. An overall building height variance to allow for a total building height of 47’ as calculated by the code. The total allowable building height allowed by the zoning code is a maximum of 30’.

The case went to BZA on March 13, 2017 and the variances were approved.  A group of neighbors appealed the vote to the City Council on April 19; the appeal was denied on a vote of 7-0.

SHA Position: SHA and its ZLU were deeply involved from the beginning, soliciting public comment and attempting to involve Ward 2 councilmember Rebecca Noecker in meetings between neighbors, SPPS and City staff, which she declined to do citing her quasi-judicial role. SHA commented extensively on the EAW that SPPS did, and through its ZLU and the full SHA board, took positions opposing the expansion. When proponents of the expansion attempted to frame the neighbors’ opposition as racist, SHA spoke up strongly to rebut those accusations.

Outcome: Construction began on the Linwood School site shortly after the end of the school year in early June. Neighbors reported numerous problems from the start with excessive noise, vibration and other disruptions which were not only impeding their ability to lead normal lives, but causing permanent damage to property. Their numerous calls, emails and letters to the City and SPPS were yielding no results, even with SHA facilitation. On August 14, SHA sent Noecker a letter asking for her leadership in ensuring that the neighbors’ concerns were addressed. Due to SHA’s persistence, a meeting between the neighbors, SPPS and City officials, and Noecker was scheduled for September 27. Neither Noecker nor her aide attended, but after the meeting the City and SPPS agreed to take some steps to ameliorate some of the issues aired at the meeting.

Rebecca Noecker Support of SHA?  NO


July 26, 2017: Coordinated Trash Collection

Summary: The City of St. Paul had been exploring creating a City-administered system of using existing trash haulers but assigning them to different parts of the city within a framework of standardized services and pricing, which it variously called coordinated or organized trash collection.

SHA Position: When the agreement the City had made with the haulers was first announced to district councils the evening of 7/10, with a scheduled vote by the City Council barely a week later on 7/19, SHA immediately sent a letter to the Council asking that the vote be delayed because of what it felt was insufficient time for Summit Hill residents to learn the details of and register comments regarding the proposal.  At the 7/19 meeting, the vote was delayed another week. SHA immediately sent out notice to residents asking for comment, and based upon the response, sent a letter ahead of the 7/26 City Council meeting indicating that it didn’t support the proposal, listing several reasons and concerns reflecting the input we had received, and explicitly asking that those concerns be addressed.  We also suggested some steps the City could take to address some of the issues that precipitated the move toward coordinated collection. These included:

  • Higher Costs.  Even without the City annual administrative fee, many residents report that they will be paying more than they currently do under the arrangements they have with private haulers.  And, they question the ability of the City to hold down costs in the future.
    • The fact that an administrative fee is being charged which brings no added value when most residents have valued and productive relationships with their individual hauler adds to unhappiness with the cost of this proposal.
    • On top of the projected increases in property taxes and street maintenance fees in 2018, added costs for Coordinated Collection—which many do not find value in to begin with (see below)—are seen as unnecessary and onerous.
  • Lack of Flexibility.  Many residents have negotiated trash collection plans that better fit their needs, such as less frequent pick-ups, smaller containers, sharing containers with neighbors, etc.  This has resulted in lower costs and greater satisfaction with the service provided by their individual hauler, and the sense that the City’s proposal is at odds with their needs and preferences.
  • Fear of Poor Service.  This stems from a constellation of related concerns, including:
    • The disastrous roll-out of the recycling cart program, which is still being felt in the Summit Hill neighborhood as demonstrated by the many phone calls the Summit Hill Association office still receives weekly.
    • General lack of trust in the City’s ability to administer a program of this complexity and magnitude.
    • Having no leverage with individual haulers due to lack of a direct relationship; currently, if residents receive poor service, they can address their concerns directly with their hauler and, if needed, switch haulers.
  • Too Many Unanswered Questions.  These center around issues as diverse as how billing would work, what recourse individual residents would have if they receive poor customer service, how the number of trash containers is calculated for multi-family residences, how collection will work for residences without alley access, etc.

Outcome: The City Council unanimously voted to proceed with negotiations premised on the proposed contract terms. On November 8, the final contract points were presented, with the concerns expressed by SHA on behalf of neighbors largely unaddressed.  The vote was 5-2, with councilmembers Dan Bostrom and Jane Prince voting against, and Ward 2 councilmember Rebecca Noecker voting for the contract.

Rebecca Noecker Support of SHA?  NO


October 11, 2017: Sustainable To-Go Packaging

Summary:  In July, the City of Saint Paul sent out word that it was proposing an ordinance that would require all to-go food packaging distributed within the City’s limits to be either reusable, recyclable, or compostable. Also involved were Eureka Recycling and several environmental and community groups. Minneapolis passed similar legislation early in 2017, allowing a year for full enactment.

SHA Position: At its July 13 meeting, after a presentation regarding the measure—what it was, how it would be enacted, how businesses would be supported in making the transition—the Summit Hill Board voted overwhelmingly in favor of the ordinance.  This was communicated in a letter to the City Council.

Outcome: On October 11, the City Council voted against the proposed ordinance on a 5-2 vote, with Ward 2 councilmember Rebecca Noecker voting with the majority against the ordinance; councilmember Amy Brendmoen and Council President Russ Stark represented the two votes for the ordinance.

Rebecca Noecker Support of SHA?  NO


October 25, 2017: Short-Term Rentals                                           

Summary: In the spring of 2017, the City asked for comment on creating ordinances around short-term rentals which had, at that point, been illegal. The intent was to create a licensing and regulation framework.  On October 25, the City Council voted 6-1, with only Councilmember Dan Bostrom voting against.

SHA Position: SHA’s ZLU solicited comment from the neighborhood after a meeting with City staff to go over the proposed ordinance language. Rather than take a vote, ZLU opted to consolidate comments and concerns, which largely followed five major themes:

  • Concerns about safety and security that were not addressed in the proposed amendments, especially for residents of multi-family buildings, but also for surrounding neighborhoods of STR units in general.
  • Concerns about losing affordable, long-term rental units to STRs, based upon the experiences of other cities.
  • Skepticism on the reliance on the various STR platforms for enforcement and providing the necessary data to provide adequate regulation by the City.
  • How compliance can really be monitored and enforced by the City, whether it was with regard to fire inspections, licensing or other matters.
  • Concern that the proposed rules around occupancy and limits on the number of allowed STR units were too expansive, along with more questions on who and how these would be enforced.

These comments were sent to the Planning Commission on June 1, with Ward 2 councilmember Rebecca Noecker’s office, and again to Noecker and the rest of the City Council ahead of their vote on October 25.  SHA also sent a letter in support of a group of neighbors who suggested some specific changes related to these concerns ahead of that meeting.

Outcome: The Planning Commission made minimal changes to the original proposed ordinances, and the City Council adopted their recommendations largely as-is. Noecker made no apparent attempt to suggest changes to the ordinances which would have addressed neighborhood concerns.

Rebecca Noecker Support of SHA?  NO


November 1, 2017: Menthol Tobacco Ordinance Changes

Summary: A large coalition of various community groups approached SHA in July for its support to enact an ordinance to eliminate the sale of menthol- and other flavored tobacco products in all but tobacco stores. The intent of the ordinance was to further deter youth from starting smoking or continuing to smoke, given the data around usage of such flavored tobacco products.

SHA Position: After a presentation on the impact of menthol- and other flavored tobacco products by coalition members, the SHA Board overwhelmingly voted to support the ordinance changes, and also to sign on to become a member of the coalition, in light of the three K-12 schools in and immediately adjacent to our district.

Outcome: At the City Council meeting on November 1, the vote was 6-1 in favor of the proposed ordinance changes, with councilmember Bostrom voting against them. Ward 2 councilmember Rebecca Noecker was one of six councilmembers sponsoring this legislation.

Rebecca Noecker Support of SHA?  YES


2017 Total:  Rebecca Noecker Support of SHA  YES—1  NO--4