The city of Edina is looking to update its off-street parking regulations, which have remained unchanged for decades.

The Planning Commission has been discussing the matter over the past nine months, eventually approving a draft ordinance amendment that was submitted for Edina City Council consideration. A public hearing was held June 15. The council will take action on the draft ordinance amendment at its July 21 meeting – the first meeting being held in person since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Planning commissioners, who approved the draft ordinance amendment 7-2, expressed their thoughts at a May 12 meeting. The two commissioners who declined support for the ordinance amendment, Kate Agnew and Lou Miranda, said they didn’t think the ordinance goes far enough to prevent large quantities of unused parking spaces in the city.

The off-street parking ordinance governs the parking requirements that face developers as they propose new projects. The requirements place a minimum on the number of parking spaces a development can have. Such standards have not been amended since 1970, according to city documents.

But, as indicated by planning commissioners at their May meeting, the amendment could have an effect on the city’s overall measures in walkability, sustainability and forward-thinking stance.

The draft ordinance amendment proposes generally reducing the parking space requirements for new projects, designating commercial nodes in the city with separate regulations, adding limits on the number of parking spaces and using incentives to persuade developers to reduce parking spaces, such as through shared parking and bike parking.

Some concerns about the amendment, as expressed by residents and commissioners, include the loss of parking spots for elderly residents who are unable to walk far, increased parking in residential neighborhoods, lack of existing transit infrastructure and winter weather.

Comments by city officials

The Planning Commission split 7-2 on approval of the draft ordinance amendment. Some commissioners stated that they thought it was a good step forward for getting the city away from requiring too many parking spaces while others said the ordinance was too temperate, paving the way for unused seas of parking in Edina.

All commissioners indicated a desire to see a new ordinance with a fewer number of required parking spaces.

Commissioner Joann Olsen said the city needs to reduce its dependability on cars.

Commissioner David Alkire said, “We just don’t have a square foot of Edina to waste,” said. “It seems like a good, strong, positive move in the right direction.”

Other commissioners, like Miranda, Agnew and James Bennett, expressed informal disapproval for the draft ordinance, arguing that reducing parking drastically in the city is an urgent need.

Miranda advocated for the elimination of parking minimums completely, adding that climate change is a looming issue to address. “We don’t really have time,” he said. He noted that having no parking minimums would not mean that parking in the city would be gone altogether.

Agnew argued that having a large parking lot of unused spaces does not help create a walkable city. She added that market forces should be allowed to “right-size” parking to reflect the needs of the community.

Bennett told commissioners that he thought Agnew summed up the points “eloquently.” Change needs to happen in commercial and neighborhood nodes that allows for improved safety for bikes and pedestrians, he said. Bennett said he would consider supporting the amendment if the commission could continue the conversation on off-street parking beyond the amendment approval in order to build a more comprehensive parking plan, which some commissioners seemed to support.

Planning Commission Chair Ian Nemerov said he thinks the ordinance addresses Edina as it is today. He added, “(Developers) will take advantage of the public realm as much as they can get away with and still have a valuable development.”

Often, not being required to build off-street parking spaces would reduce costs for developers. This means in some projects, if there is no parking minimum, developers could choose to not install any parking spaces. The Minneapolis City Council voted to eliminate parking minimums earlier this year.

Nemerov added that other factors, like transit improvements, will drive change on the issue. Commissioner Sheila Berube mirrored this thought, noting that she doesn’t know if Edina is ready for a more aggressive off-street parking amendment.

The Edina City Council heard Nemerov provide a summarized version of the Planning Commission’s decision on the off-street parking ordinance amendment at its June 15 meeting. Councilmember Kevin Staunton asked whether the commission reached out to the development community to gain information on their decision-making process in placing parking in projects. Nemerov responded that while there was no direct outreach, the Planning Commission has familiarity with developers based on their project proposals.

The public comment period on the ordinance is open through July 12. Comments can be made on bettertogetheredina.org/parking-ordinance-amendments.

– Follow Caitlin Anderson on Twitter @EdinaSunCurrent

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