St. Paul City Attorney Lyndsey Olson said she will not ask the Minnesota attorney general to weigh in on whether Mayor Melvin Carter was legally using his veto power to allow a controversial housing development to move forward.
Olson's decision goes against the wishes of five St. Paul City Council members who voted last month to seek an outside opinion on Carter's authority in the hopes of preventing the issue from going to court.
"This raises all sorts of really serious questions about how much power the city attorney is giving to the mayor," said Council Member Jane Prince, arguing the veto sets a "dangerous precedent by allowing the mayor to unilaterally award a multimillion-dollar development."
Along with Council Members Dai Thao and Nelsie Yang, Prince has accused Carter of overstepping his authority when he vetoed the council's rejection of a $57 million site plan for a vacant lot at University Avenue and Lexington Parkway.
Neighbors and other critics of the site plan have pledged to sue the city to stop Minneapolis-based Alatus' development, which they argue would speed gentrification and displacement of low-income residents.
In a May 5 letter to council members, Olson wrote that she would not request an opinion from the attorney general because her office gave legal support that helped inform the mayor's choice to issue a rare veto.
Thao said council members are waiting for an official opinion from Olson outlining why she believes Carter's veto was valid.
The City Council and St. Paul's Planning Commission rejected Alatus' site proposal by split votes, with majorities saying the development does not comply with the affordability goals laid out in St. Paul's 2040 Comprehensive Plan. Some also argued it would not fit in with the surrounding neighborhood.
But others said they don't think the city has legal ground to reject the site plan, which does not seek city subsidies or zoning variances.
Katie Galioto • 612-673-4478