The Aberdeen City Council struck a compromise Monday on the issue of landscaping requirements in city parking lots.
Under an amendment put forward Dec. 3, any existing business that has improved the green space of 20 percent of its total lot size could seek an exemption from the requirement that islands be built in its parking lot.
At Monday's meeting, the council decided that such a waiver should apply only to lots with a contiguous hard-surfaced area totaling 35,000 square feet or less. That amendment was suggested by council member Jennifer Slaight-Hansen.
The council also approved a definition of what constitutes improved landscaping, as supplied by City Attorney Adam Altman.
In addition, Slaight-Hansen's amendment also refined the 20 percent idea that councilman Todd Campbell suggested Dec. 3. Instead of city forester Aaron Kiesz, the three-member forestry committee will decide if 20 percent of a business’ property has been suitably improved to waive the landscaping requirement.
At Monday's meeting, Kiesz said he liked the idea of the forestry committee ruling on the 20 percent issue. A decision by the forestry committee could be appealed to the City Council.
Campbell approved of the changes. He said he's not trying to help a business get around the ordinance. He could think of only a dozen businesses, at most, to which the 20 percent rule would apply. It would also apply only to businesses that have landscaped their property as of the date the ordinance is passed.
Mayor Mike Levsen said he would have voted against the ordinance as it was constituted last week. He wasn't ready to say goodbye to the concept of greenery inside parking lots. The changes approved Monday, he said, meant that businesses will still have to build islands in “humongous pasture-sized parking lots.” Steps taken at Monday’s meeting, he said, produced a good middle ground that he could live with.
A football field, he said, measures 45,000 square feet.
The council approved the first reading of the ordinance Monday. The second reading is set for Dec. 17.
One number has been the subject of discussion the last two meetings. Currently, if a business has a hard-surfaced area of 5,000 square feet or less, all the landscaping can go on the perimeter of the lot. City administrators suggested that landscaping could be on the perimeter if the lot is 10,000 square feet or smaller. At the Dec. 3 meeting, the council agreed on Campbell's idea that the number increase to 15,000 square feet.
On Monday night, Slaight-Hansen made a motion to return that number to 10,000 square feet. That motion failed by a 5-4 vote. Voting in favor of the motion were Clint Rux, Tom Agnitsch, Slaight-Hansen and Jeff Mitchell.
The council also discussed changing the makeup of the forestry committee, which now consists of members of the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Board. It's not that the current members don't do a good job, Laure Swanson said. But it would be good to include people who aren’t members of the Parks Board.
At the beginning of the meeting, City Engineer Robin Bobzien gave a report on the plowing following the weekend snowfall. There were a few breakdowns, but overall the cleanup was not bad, he said.
Just less than 250 vehicles were towed Monday, he said. That number did not approach a couple of snowstorms last year and the year before, when nearly 500 vehicles were towed.
More than 1,300 people have signed up for the city's text alerts, which is helping to spread the word, Bobzien said.
All the residential and the downtown commercial area were plowed Monday. Work on the parking lots was done Monday night, he said.