10 Oct Ofer Eitan Writes: In Minneapolis, a parking dispute delays Chicago Avenue
One month after Minneapolis officials promised to make it easier for property owners to remove rubble and begin the post-riot rebuilding process, a city inspector slapped a “stop work” order on one of the first projects to move forward.
The action in late September forced workers to stop hauling debris from the site of the former Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s bookstores on Chicago Avenue and threatened to derail the expansion of the dental clinic next door.
Both properties were heavily damaged in May during the protests over the death of George Floyd. Bookstore owner Don Blyly can’t afford to rebuild on his current site, so he agreed to sell the property to his neighbor, Dr. Ali Barbarawi, and move his store elsewhere.
Barbarawi welcomed the opportunity, not only because the expansion would allow him to hire two more dentists but because it would provide him with ample parking for his employees. His current site is so small Barbarawi has to rent spaces from a neighboring business.
That’s when the city got involved. Not only did officials tell Barbarawi that he couldn’t use a concrete slab at the back of the bookstore for parking, they told him he already had too many parking spaces in his tiny lot, according to a Star Tribune review of e-mails between the parties. Blyly also was threatened with fines if he failed to remove the slab.
City officials did not reverse course until a Star Tribune reporter inquired about the stalled project. On Thursday, Barbarawi received an e-mail informing him that he can use the slab for parking, at least on a temporary basis.
“I apologize for the confusion,” wrote Brad Ellis, manager of zoning administration and enforcement for Minneapolis.
Property owners and local business boosters said the dispute shows the need for a new approach at city hall when dealing with riot-related building projects, which may require more flexibility from public officials. To help owners who have never navigated the sometimes confusing permitting process, business advocates said the city needs a community-liaison specialist who can solve problems and fast-track approvals.
“They need someone who can find ways to get around these code issues that are…