Aug 25, 2023 - News

City Council scolded over driveway decision

Merle Hay Mart was the answer to yesterday's "Where's Jason" contest. Axios DSM reader Bert Drost won our shirt. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

The Des Moines City Council has unanimously approved local businessman Rich Eychaner's request to maintain an extra driveway along a commercial area across from Merle Hay Mall.

Why it matters: City ordinances now restrict the number of driveway entrances to one per 300 feet to protect pedestrian safety.

  • The council's exception runs counter to the Plan and Zoning Commission's prior recommendation to deny Eychaner's request.

Catch up fast: Merle Hay Mart is a 61-year-old strip mall that includes restaurants and offices.

  • Midwest Radio, Eychaner's business, is making renovations that require it to meet current landscaping standards.
  • The renovations would cut one of the property's three current drives along Merle Hay Road.

Driving the news: Eliminating a drive would result in backed up traffic and problematic parking issues, Eychaner told the council this week.

  • In 2006 there were 25 driveways on multiple streets surrounding the property, which takes up much of a city block. He's now closed all but six of them, he said.

Zoom in: Eychaner tells Axios he's spent two years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to update the site and meet dozens of other city requirements.

  • He noted that the Merle Hay Neighborhood Association's board unanimously voted earlier this month in support of the three-driveway plan.
  • Plus, the city's sidewalk development plans include the area in front of his property to improve pedestrian safety, he added.

Of note: The council additionally approved a driveway exception to a different owner in the 4400 block of Southeast 14th Street this week.

The other side: Zoning commissioner Carol Maher told the council their "shameful" votes violate their own Vision Zero plan to make streets safer.


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