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The Shoppes at Piedmont

Proposed zoning language would boost requirements for trees and green space in commercial parking lots.

After accepting some revisions meant to appease developers and property owners, the Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Commission voted Wednesday to recommend changes to the city's zoning code aimed at sprucing up commercial parking lots.

The commission four weeks ago had voted not to approve an initial proposal, instead directing the Planning Department to meet with interested developers to try to come up with some compromises.

They did that and presented a new plan Wednesday that had nine mostly minor changes.

Those changes were welcomed, but the new proposal still fell short of what is needed to help facilitate development, especially in older areas of the city, said attorney Mark Hunzeker.

Hunzeker, who was at the Planning Commission hearing representing Speedway Properties, said developers encounter many problems when trying to redevelop sites in older neighborhoods, and the proposed regulations, which add requirements for more green space and trees in and around parking lots, "exacerbate those problems."

He said that if the purpose is to help spur development and beautify the city, officials need to plan for it and encourage it "rather than regulate it."

Among the proposals Hunzeker and his clients took issue with were the removal of exemptions for small lots and the requirement to add landscape screening between abutting parking lots.

Hunzeker proposed several additional changes, including taking out a requirement that developers doing remodels that include exterior changes and have a construction cost that's 50 percent or more of the property's assessed value plant what are called street trees.

The commission voted 5-3 in favor of an amendment offered by Commissioner Maja Harris to drop that requirement from the proposal. Several commissioners said it was confusing and hard to enforce.

They then approved the overall proposal 7-1, with Commissioner Tom Beckius providing the only "no" vote.

The proposal now goes to the City Council.

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Business editor/reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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