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Superior Council nixes off-street parking requirements for business

A man walks down Tower Avenue in Superior on Wednesday, Jan. 16. (Jed Carlson / / 2
A delivery van drives down Tower Avenue in Superior on Wednesday, Jan. 16. (Jed Carlson / / 2

Superior's City Council amended its zoning code Tuesday, Jan. 15, to eliminate minimum off-street parking requirements in commercial and industrial districts for new business development.

Starting last summer, the city's been looking at the role the parking ordinance plays in development, said Jason Serck, economic development, port and planning director.

"If you look at our downtown and some of the storefronts that need to be filled, a lot of them don't have parking and essentially our categories are outdated," Serck said. "We started looking at it and decided to eliminate parking from a commercial and industrial standpoint."

Parking is dictated by the market, and business tends to meet or exceed the requirement for parking to support the business, Serck said.

The changes don't affect off-street parking requirements in residential areas.

"Move on to the residential. I think that's more important," Serck said. "I think we need to continue to employ residential standards just because they're building multi-family. Take for instance we've had a couple multi-family facilities go up here recently. We need off-street parking. We don't want to clutter our neighborhoods any more than what some of them are right now."

Councilor Brent Fennessey said he likes the direction the city is taking.

"Anytime the city can get out of the way and let the businesses do what the businesses do best, that's always a good thing," Fennessey said. "I think this is a step in that direction."

However, Fennessey had concerns about residential neighborhoods adjacent to commercial districts and made a motion to refer the matter to the Plan Commission to consider options for protecting residential neighborhoods under those circumstances.

"I think we're really, really close to what we're all trying to accomplish," Fennessey said. "I just don't like that it doesn't protect those neighborhoods that are right on the fringe ... of the commercial zoning."

Serck said there are other mechanisms, such as special use or conditional use permits that could achieve that when necessary.

Councilor Esther Dalbec said she didn't believe it was necessary to send the ordinance back to the Plan Commission.

"People are buying homes that have three or four cars," Dalbec said. "We can't guarantee people a spot in front of their homes. I wish I could park in front of my house, but I can't."

The change to the ordinance has been before the Plan Commission in September and October before a recommendation to eliminate the off-street parking requirement was made in December, Councilor Jenny Van Sickle said.

"This is an exciting opportunity for the city of Superior to comprehensively roll back some of these regulations," Van Sickle said, noting that creating a single parking space cost about $4,000 in 2012.

Mayor Jim Paine said residential parking was already discussed at length at the Plan Commission.

"This largely affects small businesses that have street frontage where they need all their square footage on their lot to operate the business itself," Paine said. He said the city has other measures, especially when incentives are involved, to ensure responsible development.

A motion to refer the matter back to the Plan Commission failed by a 3-7 margin.

The Council adopted the ordinance change by voice vote with only Councilor Dan Olson objecting to the passage. Fennessey and Councilor Craig Sutherland, who also voted for the referral, approved adopting the ordinance change by voice vote.

"I am passionate about encouraging smart growth; this policy change was an important goal of mine," Van Sickle said. "Additionally, it's an important step in easing the financial burden and regulation on developers, which makes Superior more accessible to entrepreneurs and small businesses."