The changes will affect nonresidential businesses this way:
- If an existing business has improved its landscaping on a minimum of 20 percent of its property and its parking lot totals 35,000 square feet or less, the business won't be required to do any additional landscaping.
- In addition, if an existing business has a hard-surfaced area of 10,000 square feet or less, all the landscaping can go on the perimeter of the lot. If the lot is 10,000 square feet or larger, any required landscaping must be done on islands in the interior of the lot.
Under the old ordinance, all of the landscaping could go on the perimeter of the lot if the business has a hard-surfaced area of 5,000 square feet or less.
Before Monday's meeting, the council was planning to raise the current 5,000 figure to 15,000 square feet. But an amendment to reduce the number to 10,000 square feet, offered by council member Jennifer Slaight-Hansen, passed by a 5-4 vote.
Slaight-Hansen said she was more comfortable with the 10,000 number. Clint Rux agreed with her.
Councilman David Bunsness said he was comfortable with 15,000 square feet. He and councilor Laure Swanson said that when the city addressed the comprehensive plan, from which the landscaping code stemmed, Super Wal-Mart was a major concern. In no way, he said, was the city thinking about parking islands in the Kessler's and Ken's SuperFair Foods parking lots.
“I want the flexibility for business owners to get what they need to happen,” Bunsness said.
In addition to Slaight-Hansen and Rux, the change to 10,000 square feet was supported by Jeff Mitchell, Tom Agnitsch and Mayor Mike Levsen.
Under an amendment fashioned by Slaight-Hansen and Todd Campbell, the city's forestry committee will have the authority to consider alternate placement of trees and shrubs and waive numerical requirements for trees or islands.
Other changes, not discussed Monday, will increase the trigger values for nonresidential construction. Landscaping will be required if a project totals 1,000 square feet, rather than the current requirement of 500 square feet. Landscaping would also be required if the total project evaluation is $100,000, instead of the current level of $50,000.
For residential properties, the city used to require homeowners to put in boulevard trees where none exist if a homeowner did a $15,000 project or increased the footprint of their home by 150 square feet. That requirement will no longer exist.
New boulevard trees will now only be required if a person builds a new home. The fee will be paid up front when people obtain a building permit. The city will take care of purchasing and planting those boulevard trees.
Bunsness cast the only negative vote on the second reading of the landscape ordinance.
Late in the meeting, Levsen commended the council for the amicable way it handled the landscaping changes. The process went on a long time and had a lot of delays, he said, but the council handled the issue the way a council is supposed to act, he said.
Also at Monday's meeting, the council voted to pay HKG Architects $32,000 to prepare the plans and specifications for the remodeling of the Aberdeen Recreation and Cultural Center. The renovation is necessary for the building to serve as the temporary home for city employees during City Hall’s renovation.
ARCC construction could begin in early March and finish by September. City hall workers hope to move to the ARCC in October and remain there for all of 2014, returning to a renovated city hall in 2015. The workers would be located on the ARCC's second and third floor.
Levsen talked about not doing any unnecessary renovations at the ARCC. One idea he suggested was not putting up any walls.
In addition, the council awarded a bid of $339,782 to JDH Construction for interior demolition and rehabilitation preparation at the former Roosevelt Junior High School.