Thursday, January 17, 2013

The creaking and groaning of code

At our last Planning Commission meeting we had a longer than usual agenda on various topics that I could write at length on. Today I want to briefly point out the absurdity and uselessness of the systems we have built, and are governed by.

One topic we spent a fair amount of time on was the parking determination of the proposed Main Street Covenant church, which is planning to take over a large section of the Stonegate Shopping Center, which currently houses the Dollar Store, Early Chilldhood Education class, and others office and retail. The issue was of parking spots, and whether the Stonegate could handle the influx of church goers using the facility.

So our city's code has a section that identifies the minimum requirements for parking, usually based on square footage. So for the school facility (ECFE), the code requires 76 parking spaces . For for the retail spaces (Dollar Store and Dominos) 43 parking spaces. Banks, offices and the proposed church space had similar numbers... and after adding it all up, the Mound city code suggests that Stonegate should have 203 parking spots.

Stonegate has 137 parking spaces on location.

Stonegate Shopping Center - Do we really need to worry there's not enough parking spaces here?
Think about it. Does ECFE really need 76 parking spaces?! How often does the Dollar Store need 30 parking spaces?

Then think about all the times you've driven past this location, and how empty the parking lot is.

So during the discussion, we, of course, all realize how absurd this all is, but because our code has these numbers, we have to meet, educate everyone on the issue, laugh politely about it, make up a pretend number  so all the uses of the facility will "fit" and approve the "Parking Determination" for Stonegate, and Main Covenant Church.

And it was pointed out towards the end, there is lots of on street parking on Wilshire and Eden.

The crazy part is... we have this big thick book of city code that is supposed to have the answers for these questions. Since this project (like apparently most projects in Mound) didn't fit nicely and neatly into our code,  we had to essentially ignore it. We talked about it for at least a half hour, and I don't want to think about how much staff time was spent on it for the previous weeks.

I understand the need for transparency, and I can appreciate guidelines like our city code contains. But when simple, common-sense, logical solutions are hung up by the creaking and groaning of out dated city code and the fear of phone calls from folks who complain, we have a problem.


  1. We have a small building that housed a "massage parlor" on Cedar Ave. and 38th Street in South Minneapolis. They were shut down back in the 1990's when the City was shutting down these blights. Unfortunately, the building has stood empty all this time. One entrepreneur wanted to open a neighborhood coffee shop and orchid store, called Hot House Flowers. The plan never got off the ground because they lacked off-street parking. The building is still empty to this day. How's that for helping out a neighborhood?