The Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area (MRCCA) was designated by Governor’s Executive Order in the 1970's to provide coordinated land planning and regulation for the 72-mile stretch of the Mississippi River through the seven-county metropolitan area.

Governor’s Executive Order 79-19 required local units of government to adopt local plans and regulations for the MRCCA based on standards and guidelines it provided to preserve and enhance the natural, aesthetic, economic, recreational, cultural and historical values of the corridor, including providing for continuation and development of a variety of urban uses where appropriate and protection of environmentally sensitive areas.

The Minnesota Legislature updated the MRCCA rules in 2017. Now, cities must adopt and comply with these coordinated regulations.

For more background, the Minnesota DNR created a detailed guide to MRCCA Zoning Updates and additional resources.

Draft Ordinance

The draft local ordinance would replace the existing River Corridor Overlay Districts chapter of the Saint Paul Zoning Code and move the newer, 2010-era floodplain management ordinance based on FEMA flood insurance requirements back into the Zoning Code.

The following updates are proposed for the Saint Paul ordinance:

  • The MRCCA Rules adopted in 2017 divide the Critical Area into six overlay zoning districts and include specific requirements for Critical Area plans and ordinances that local units of government are required to adopt along with the new districts. All six new MRCCA districts are used in Saint Paul.

  • A focus of the Rules is on river & bluff setback requirements, height standards and protection of river corridor views from public parks and parkways. Structure height and setback standards will be consistent with the natural and built character of each of the six new MRCCA districts.

  • A major change in the new regulations is the addition of special Critical Area height regulations for virtually the entire Critical Area.

  • Another major change in the new regulations is the special exemption to allow development on and abutting the downtown bluff.

  • The draft ordinance includes requirements for shielding of exterior lighting, use of bird-safe glass and minimizing disturbance in primary conservation areas during bird migration times.

  • New local permits will be required, along with new standards, for certain land alteration and vegetation clearing activities in environmentally sensitive areas, including areas near public waters and wetlands, bluff impact zones and areas of native plant communities.

  • For planned unit developments and master planned developments involving 10 or more acres for parcels that abut the river and 20 or more acres for all other parcels, the draft ordinance requires that primary conservation areas must be set aside and designated as protected open space.


Date Body Action
Friday, October 14, 2022 Planning Commission

Initiate zoning study, release draft amendments for public review and set a public hearing

Friday, January 20, 2023 Planning Commission

Public hearing on Zoning Code amendments related to Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area (MRCCA) and floodplain management regulations

All comments concerning the zoning study and proposed zoning code text amendments will be heard at the public hearing.

Written comments and letters can be viewed by following the links below:

Last Edited: September 26, 2023