Schriver’s Memorial Mortuary co-owner George Schriver said the city was “literally going to close us down” because of the landscaping dispute. If Schriver's had closed, the business wouldn't have been able to “serve families which we have served for over 50 years in this community,” he said.
Last year, Schriver's spent $300,000 expanding and remodeling its fellowship center and almost $50,000 on landscaping. Because of the remodeling size, the city landscaping ordinance took effect. The city was not satisfied with the $50,000 remodeling effort, because no work had been done inside Schriver's parking lot, he said. In order to stay open, Schriver's recently installed in its lot two islands, with a total of four trees. The cost of those islands was more than $14,000.
He feels the requirement for parking islands was “totally ridiculous” and out of line.
If someone died and the family called, Schriver's would have had to respond, “Nope, we can't because we didn't put four trees in our parking lot,” he said. He received, he said, no leeway from the city. “You cannot fight city hall.”
Aberdeen real estate agent Scott Grebner said the city threatened that the doors would be chained shut at SuperCity Plaza if a landscaping agreement couldn't be worked out. Grebner is the leasing manager for SuperCity Plaza. Grebner and the city couldn't agree on where parking islands would be built. The issue was resolved when two islands were built in the lot west of Ken's SuperFair Foods and another east of Little Caesar's Pizza.
In many cases, the city will delay issuing a permit just to bring the parties to the table, said city attorney Adam Altman.
“The city isn't interested in shutting businesses down. But we can't pick and choose which laws we enforce,” he said.
The city often issues a temporary certificate of occupancy if a building is safe, for example, but not up to code. Aberdeen does the same if a business doesn't have its landscaping installed, he said. When the temporary certificate expires, the city is good about allowing landscaping work to wait until spring, Altman said. But at some point, if the landscaping work is not done, those businesses will be told they can't occupy their building without a certificate of occupancy.
The City Council is in the process of revising the landscape ordinance, which was discussed at a work session Oct. 22 and at a Nov. 5 meeting. The subject will also be discussed again at Monday's meeting.
At the recent meetings, council members have pointed out that the landscaping ordinance was not created by city forester Aaron Kiesz or any other employee. It was passed by the City Council.
Kiesz said most American cities of 25,000 people or more have landscaping ordinances, and the Aberdeen law is neither the strictest nor the lightest.
The law, he said, is needed to beautify newer projects coming into the community as well as the older, existing properties.
A big part of the law, Kiesz said, is aimed at parking lots. The city does not want to “have the same things that were happening 50 years ago occurring now,” referring to wide-open parking lots.
Beautification isn't the only result, Kiesz said. Trees and plants also add shade, have a cooling effect and help with water runoff.
“Everybody likes to park under a tree,” he said. “In the summer, if you go to a parking lot and there's a tree there, those spots are usually taken.”
Business owners complain that parking islands are an expense and make snow removal more difficult.
“Those are probably the two biggest complaints you hear. And you may lose a parking stall or two,” Kiesz said. “We all know parking is important in Aberdeen, but I think islands and trees are just as important. And I think everybody appreciates a shady spot to park under.”
Even though islands are required in large parking lots, Kiesz said there's a lot of flexibility in where the islands go and how they're designed.
If businesses never remodel, islands in those parking lots won't be required, Kiesz said.