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Want More Second-Hand Stores In Your Life?

Who says a city of liberals can't get rid of a little red tape?

Despite Minneapolis' reputation for "hipster chic" and for environmentally-conscious thinking, it's mighty hard to open up a second-hand store here. Those same regulations, says one city councilmember, are strangling businesses in their cribs.

First, anyone wanting to start a new second-hand store must make sure they are at least 1,000 feet away from a laundry list of stores. Got a pawnshop nearby? Move on down the road. Find a currency exchange business (if they still exist outside of the airport) next door to your ideal location? Take a hike. And don't even think of opening up close to a clothing shelf at a church. That's right out.

City Councilmember Elizabeth Glidden (Ward 8) doesn't like this too much. According to an email she sent to her constituents last month, the spacing requirements are have killed off several proposed Ward 8 businesses before they even got off the ground. What's more, she wrote, they keep Minneapolitans from taking a "reduce, reuse, recycle" approach to more of their lives. 

Possibly the worst part of the whole regulatory scheme, Glidden argues, is its complexity. Take bicycle shops, for example. According to a report prepared by City of Minneapolis planning staff and obtained by Patch, any bike shop that sells used bike parts as part of a repair service doesn't need to worry about the 1,000-foot rule if it does most of its business in used bikes. But if you want to drop a clothing donation bin on a street corner, the rule does apply.

The report admits that even city staff have a hard time tracking who counts and who doesn't, because many businesses with second-hand goods licenses, like the hypothetical bicycle shop, don't actually count. In other cases, a second-hand business might be limited in its total size because of how its building is zoned.

This confusion can sometimes lead to mistakes by city staff.

In her letter, Glidden told the story of an unnamed business on Nicollet Avenue that was told it couldn't open, because it was too close to an antique store. As it turned out, city regulators had gotten mixed up—antique stores are exempted—but the damage was done, and the business nearly had to break its lease before the mix-up was ironed out.

While the web of regulations and zoning ordinances that govern second-hand stores does serve some good uses, Glidden has proposed the city nix the 1,000-foot rule. 

"With these common sense changes the city will continue to use its power to regulate businesses appropriately and second hand good stores will still be required to apply for business licenses," she wrote.

The move has support from the Nicollet-East Harriet Business Association, which represents most Southwest Minneapolis buinesses.

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