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Brainerd City Council: Ordinance change on parking lots on docket

Council member Gabe Johnson (left), along with the rest of the Brainerd City Council, discuss a proposal to change the B1 district ordinance. The change, which would require parking lots for conditional use permits, is intended to meet future developments along Washington Street. Gabriel Lagarde / Brainerd Dispatch

The Brainerd City Council is taking a hard look at changing its ordinances for B1 business districts—a preemptive move to address future developments, particularly along Washington Street.

City Planner Mark Ostgarden said the ordinance change is meant as a preemptive measure for future growth—specifically B1 properties adjacent to B6 properties along north Washington Street to 10th Street. In essence, the ordinance change would require a parking lot as a stipulation in a conditional use permit.

B1 districts designate a range of properties with small-scale retail, business and community uses that serve the needs of people who live or work in the surrounding neighborhood.

"Eventually there will be redevelopment proposed and we know the B6 depth is really limited there because of the alley," Ostgarden said. "We're going to have to look at ways to handle parking that might develop along Washington Street. If we don't, we're going to have developments like we have at Taco John's—they're going to be linear, with little depth."

The proposed amendment to the ordinance is the addition of a parking lot, with specific parameters, should a B1 business apply for a conditional use permit:

• The parking lot should be adjacent or across an alley from a B6 (Washington Street Commercial) property.

• The parking lot should be no wider than the B6 property its next to.

• Overnight parking will be limited to the vehicles operated by the business on the B6 property.

• Changes to the alley will have to be approved by the city of Brainerd and funded at the owner's expense.

While explicitly requesting council members not to allow the current Thrifty White Drug pharmacy relocation to influence their decision process, the request document stated it would probably be the first business affected by the ordinance change.

Ostgarden noted the planning commission voted unanimously (5-0) to present the ordinance change to the council, citing the current situation of parking in north Brainerd as a key factor in their decision-making process.

"It's very difficult for me to trade residential housing for parking lots," said council member Kelly Bevans, who represents Ward 2, or the area in question. "We've already lost Whittier School, we're stuck with the hospital—I don't necessarily mean that in a negative way, the hospital is fabulous—but they consume space and they consume residential space."

Ostgarden noted a public hearing occurred during the commission meeting—which no one attended. Bevans questioned why there would be no public hearing for a ordinance change going forward.

The council opted to continue the process and host a second reading of the ordinance with a vote of 5-1. Bevans alone opposed this resolution.