Local view: City erred by allowing McDonald's to cut trees that screened homes
Oops! It seems Duluth's planning and zoning staffers were a bit quick in approving a building permit for the new McDonald's on London Road at 21st Avenue East. In their speed to approve plans, city planners seemed to have missed the intent of McD...
Oops! It seems Duluth's planning and zoning staffers were a bit quick in approving a building permit for the new McDonald's on London Road at 21st Avenue East. In their speed to approve plans, city planners seemed to have missed the intent of McDonald's to remove eight or nine 30-foot-tall ponderosa pines on the property boundary. The trees, for many years, had buffered activities at McDonald's from the five residential properties between the restaurant and Jefferson Street.
The green buffer is now gone.
Those trees provided some protection against the considerable noise of vehicular traffic, parking-lot chatter and other human activity a drive-in generates. The less-than-appealing view of a big blacktop parking lot and fast-food building does not reflect the quality environment desired by people who choose to live in Duluth.
What reason was there to remove the trees? Did the removal enhance the visual image of the McDonald's development? Did anyone question the effect on the urban neighbors? Does the removal somehow enhance the profit of an international corporation? Does that profit counterweigh the quiet enjoyment and real estate values of adjacent residents?
As Duluth residents, we rely on city officials -- our only voice -- to act for us, to protect our interests and also to protect the interests of the city.
Was this an example of a huge corporation such as McDonald's running roughshod over local residents' interests?
A new zoning ordinance, greatly delayed, is now in place in Duluth. We trust this tool will stimulate the zoning administration to act with order and consistency to protect our current development assets and to facilitate change when it is proposed. Any ordinance must be administered with sound, realistic judgment guided by the ordinance and the actual physical situation.
Sensitive, site-specific common sense would have deterred the cutting of those trees -- whether or not the law spoke to the situation specifically.
The new zoning ordinance will be no more or less effective if sound administration does not occur.
I invite Duluth planning staffers to a picnic in my back yard. The McDonald's is on me -- literally!
Jack Bratrud lives in Duluth.