Limited parking downtown might be alleviated with an ordinance the East Lansing Planning Commission greenlit Wednesday night.
Ordinance 1287, which must be passed by the East Lansing City Council before going into effect, was approved despite garnering concern from commissioners and residents during discussions.
The ordinance would allow residences to expand existing driveways and other parking areas.
Commissioner Fred Bauries said he doesn’t like the idea of “wrecking” properties by expanding parking areas.
Although the proposal allows for 25 percent expansion of parking areas in front yards and 30 percent in back yards, Bauries said he was in favor of zero percent expansion.
“Expanding parking in rental areas is about the worst thing we could do,” he said.
Community Development Analyst Tim Schmitt said the ordinance as a whole is a worthwhile endeavor, even if some of the details have led to controversy.
“What we’ve found is that we agree on the vast majority of it,” Schmitt said.
The ordinance originally included an amendment to require rental properties to do extensive landscaping to screen the new parking areas in the event of expansion, but the amendment was voted down and changed to exclude driveways in the ordinance.
Commissioner Paul Stokstad cited concerns about safety in moving to eliminate requirements for landscaping along driveways.
“I worry about the safety of this,” he said.
The ordinance — specifically the landscaping aspect thereof — was the subject of some criticism from residents.
East Lansing resident Jeff Hudgins spoke out against the financial aspect of the requirements, saying the total cost of improvements under the former amendment would be more than $5,000 for landlords at a minimum, and likely would be more than $6,000.
Hudgins is the owner of Hudgins Realty, which rents houses and apartments in the area, and he said the ordinance as a whole was not objectionable, but the specific provisions for landscaping were “expensive, onerous and wrong.”
East Lansing-area landlord Matt Hagan, agent at Hagan Realty, said there were safety concerns in the provision as well.
He said the provision is worded such that properties with driveways would be required to put up either fences or greenery along the entire length of the driveway, which would impair sight lines for drivers backing out of their driveways and could pose dangers to pedestrians.