Chamber of Commerce raises concerns about the proposed Land Development Code

Land Development Code Board and Commission Review Draft-April 7, 2011 Zoning Map draft
The Planning Commission-Zoning Board of Appeals web packet for April 7 contains, among other things, a letter from the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce concerning their issues with the Land Development Code Board and Commission Review Draft-April 7, 2011 (312-page PDF). These concerns surfaced at last week’s Northfield City Council meeting (see pages 1-23 of the April 12 council packet).

The Planning Commission packet states on Page 33:

The letter from Chamber Board of Directors contains five broad points that are not specific but contain content that the Commission should be able to respond to. These five broad points can be summarized as follows:

1. Land Development Code needs more flexibility for commercial areas to allow for business diversity.

2. The Code needs to identify areas for industrial development, specifically the proposed Business Park.

3. Restrictions on college owned property undermines their ability to effectively utilize their property.

4. Residential zoned areas need more flexibility so property owners can build what customers want to live in.

5. The LDC should include a statement that contains a streamlined process to change the LDC.

The Chamber of Commerce also stressed that specific comments from builders and developers be viewed as comment from the Chamber as well. The comments from the builder/developers are much more specific and contain 18 comments in total, 13 comments relate to commercial regulations, and five comments relate to residential regulations.

The letter from the Chamber starts on page 37 of the packet.

17 comments to  (Including 2 Discussion Threads) Chamber of Commerce raises concerns about the proposed Land Development Code

  • 1
    Griff Wigley says:

    I was surprised that these types of businesses, currently allowed in the downtown zone (C1-B), would NOT be allowed under the new LDC:

    • Drive-Through Establishments
    • Firearms Dealers
    • Gasoline Station (Fuel Sales)
    • Greenhouses, Garden, and Landscaping Sales and Service
    • Restaurant, Drive-through
  • 2
    Tracy Davis says:

    I’d be surprised, too, if it was all true! :-)

  • 3
    Griff Wigley says:

    Tracy, rather than retyping the text from the Chamber letter (a scan of a photocopy -- AAARRRGGGHHH) I copied those five business types from Table 2.7-1: Permitted Principal Uses on p. 30 of the LDC draft.

    So which are incorrect?

  • 4
    Tracy Davis says:

    Griff, I don’t have the info on hand, but basically the issue is one of scale and compatibility, i.e. commercial bakery/distribution centers or large landscaping or garden centers are not allowed downtown, but small yard/garden supplies (like the old Tires Plus) or bakeries (like Quality Bakery) are just fine.

    The prohibition on drive-throughs may benefit from a fine tuning, but it’s there to protect the pedestrian nature of downtown, and encourage auto-centric businesses not to locate on Division Street and/or increase parking demand.

    I believe that not permitting firearms dealers is just a carryover from our current ordinances.

    • 4.1
      Griff Wigley says:

      Tracy,

      I can understand the rationale for restricting more drive-throughs on Division St. downtown but the downtown CB-1 district includes Hwy 3 from St. Olaf Ave to Walgreen’s. Why not allow more drive-throughs there, as well as other non-Division St. spots, eg, Northfield Pharmacy on Water St.?

    • 4.2
      Griff Wigley says:

      Tracy, firearms dealers are allowed under the current ordinance, with 3 restrictions:

      See Sec. 34-1040. -- Firearms dealer.

      Any firearms dealer shall be located at least 250 feet from the nearest residence.

      The use shall be located at least 500 feet from the following uses: religious institution, K—12 school, child care center or family or group family day care, library or park.

      No firearms or ammunition shall be displayed in window areas or any area where they can be viewed from any public right-of-way.

    • 4.3

      Griff:
      I think we’re right to equally discourage drive-through businesses on Hwy 3. The City has continued to make a more and more concerted effort to make (at least the downtown portion) of Hwy 3 more pedestrian friendly. The fact that we still only call it a “Highway [3]” is difficult, but the reality is: it’s a four-lane 30 mph road, with sidewalks and bike lanes on both sides, with primarily Northfield traffic. Why should it be treated differently than the rest of the downtown? If Northfield is to have any hope of developing the area west of Hwy 3 as a part of the downtown, then they can’t allow the street to be a giveaway to all auto-oriented businesses.

      I am inclined to agree that very small-scale drive-throughs are not that bad, though — like Northfield Pharmacy. Then again, I’m really not sure why we should be eager to have them anywhere: they’re often ugly, always wasteful (idling cars), and discriminatory.

    • 4.4
      David Ludescher says:

      Tracy,

      I think downtown is an pedestrian-friendly as it can be. As unfortunate as it may be, if the downtown is to survive as a business center it has to become as auto-friendly as possible.

    • 4.5
      Griff Wigley says:

      Sean, I really think that more we restrict vehicles and services that cater to them along the C1-B area of Hwy 3, the more we’ll hurt downtown. We’re still a car culture, with 4 months (and counting) of winter. Small example:

      When I get my car worked on at Witt Bros at 7th and Division, I walk downtown to work/eat/hang out someplace. That wouldn’t happen if the only place available to me were car repair outfits on Hwy 3 south of Woodley.

    • 4.6
      Griff Wigley says:

      Sean/Tracy,

      The Post Office drive-up drop box on Bridge Square is a drive-through. Why is that bad for downtown?

    • 4.7

      The post box has several differences from a typical drive-through:

      1. There is no significant idling, because there is no order or payment process.
      2. Anyone can use it — bike, pedestrian, car.
      3. It utilizes a city street, and does not create an eyesore parking lot.

      If McDonald’s — or whoever — makes a drive-through that meets those standards, sure, let ‘em come to downtown Hwy 3 — or even Division.

      Griff, I understood your objection to be the limitation on unnecessarily auto-oriented non-auto businesses. Like a drive-through pharmacy or coffeeshop, where business does not actually require a car. Actual auto-oriented businesses, as long as the form and scale is right (as Tracy said) I have no problem with. The auto shop at 7th and Division is consistent with a small downtown character. I agree, it’s better to have your car worked on in a place where you can walk around and enjoy other businesses and public spaces.

  • 5
    David Ludescher says:

    I’m glad to see the Chamber speaking out.

  • 6

    What exactly is the difference between “neighborhood-serving commercial” (which is allowed in Neighborhood zones) and “gas station” and “convenience store” (which are not)? Is the City envisioning some 19th century general store opening up? Gas stations are a modern-day “neigborhood-serving commerical”; while there should certainly be strict standards on the form when in a residential area, the way this is currently delineated is confusing and restrictive.

    • 6.1

      Oh here we go:

      Neighborhood-serving commercial Small scale commercial uses, including retail, personal services, or professional offices, that are not otherwise included as Permitted or Conditional Uses in the N2-B district, that reflect the neighborhood character or the surrounding residential context with respect to form, scale, and massing. This definition does not include adult uses, auto service stations, drive through establishments, firearms dealers, and gasoline stations (fuel sales). A neighborhood-serving commercial use is intended to serve the residents of the local area and not be a destination site for the general community that would encourage motorized traffic. Commercial or retail uses intended to draw from a larger area, and/or having a substantial reliance on vehicle-based customer trips, are better located in commercial districts.

      That is a paper-thin facade of mixed-use planning.

    • 6.2
      Griff Wigley says:

      I could image a neighborhood-based Kwik Trip in the SE corner of Northfield some day, out by the soccer fields.

    • 6.3

      Yeah, there are several “neighborhood” locations that could eventually serve a neighborhood-oriented gas station:

      Maple St and E Jefferson Pkwy (as you mentioned) — especially if/when Jefferson Pkwy is completed between Woodley and Spring Creek Road
      County Road 1 and Highland Pkwy (on border with Dundas — not currently in the City of Northfield, but only solid chunk of undeveloped land is in Northfield’s growth area)
      Division St and Jefferson Pkwy
      North Ave W and Cedar Ave

      What’s particularly interesting is to look at the walk scores at these four intersections:

      Maple/Jefferson: 8/100
      CR1/Highland Pkwy: 15/100
      Division/Jefferson: 28/100
      North/Cedar: 15/100

      It’s striking that of these four, Maple/Jefferson, the most “pedestrian-friendly” — that is, lowest speed streets, most attractive environment for walking or biking, good sidewalk coverage — has the worst walk score! The main issue is distance from any basic daily needs. If the City wants a healthy, walkable community, we should allow gas stations to serve some of those needs.

      There’s a new Holiday Station in Minneapolis at E 36th and Cedar Ave that provides a good example of how this can be done well in a neighborhood context (see picture). We should require this sort of form, but not disallow gas stations altogether.

  • 7
    Griff Wigley says:

    Councilor Betsey Buckheit blog post: Land development code public hearing

    The Land Development Code is almost here. The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on Thursday, July 7, at 7 pm in the Council Chambers before sending their recommendation to the Council for adoption of the new code.

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