Zoning Business Out

Today I attended a networking event held by the Northeast Chamber of Commerce. I was the only candidate there. My goals were to hear the concerns of our business community and to build awareness of my campaign.

Their top concern was taxes. Our businesses have trouble growing and surviving when City Hall takes so much from both them and their customers.

This problem was documented in a recent StarTribune story:

When Minneapolis hardware store owner Jim Welna got the chance to buy a building in the next block on Franklin Avenue and quadruple his floor space, he sat down to run the numbers.

They didn't add up -- in large part because of the property tax he'd have to pay. He figured that he would have to budget nearly $140 from each day's proceeds just to pay that $50,000 annual bill.

"I couldn't see a business model that would allow me to factor those taxes in and keep prices affordable," said Welna, who is chairman of the Seward Civic and Commerce Association.

Another concern, perhaps not appreciated by a candidate without my community development experience, was zoning. City Hall’s current zoning policy makes it expensive for a successful business to grow in place. Many times zoning allows no growth at all.

Zoning, taxes, and fees are driving growing and thriving companies out of the the city. That means the services they provide and the jobs they create are lost to Minneapolis. I think policies that force successful businesses to the suburbs are bad policies.

I think we can change the way zoning works to make it easier for our businesses to stay in Minneapolis, but still address the difficulties business growth can create for neighbors.

Since I have a citywide perpsective, I know that the Longfellow neighborhood over south had to address a serious conflict between industrial and residential uses. A compromise was reached. Smart planning as the new Midtown Greenway was constructed created landscaping to help separate the conflicting uses. I’m sure not everyone in the neighborhood is delighted, but that’s how compromise works. The city keeps jobs and tax-generating commerce, while the neighborhood is more livable.