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McDonald's Locked in Epic Dispute With Minneapolis Over a Few Inches

Your government hard at work

Your government hard at work

Neighbors of the McDonald's on Broadway Street in northeast Minneapolis are channeling years of pent-up McRage into a tedious, drawn-out dispute only a bureaucrat could love.

It started last February when McDonald's tried to get permission to build taller drive-thru signs as part of a renovation. Neighbors showed up at City Hall and appealed, citing the years of bullshit McDonald's has put them through.

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They say trash from the alleged eatery blows into their yards and loud drive-thru speakers penetrate their homes. McDonald's has left its lights on all night, making it hard to sleep. It also opened earlier than it's supposed to, waking them in the morning.

In short: It's kind of like living next to a trailer park that serves simulated meat products.

"It's just been one annoyance after another," says Robert Riskin, whose backyard abuts the restaurant. "You might think they're small things, but when you add them all up it becomes quite a disturbance."

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The City Council agreed and granted the neighbors' appeal. Now armed with real leverage for the first time in decades, neighbors were able to get McDonald's to agree to install more than $1 million worth of upgrades in exchange for dropping the appeal in April.

Yet McDonald's still managed to piss neighbors off. City inspectors arrived in November to measure five new drive-thru signs. (Yes, there are actually government workers who measure signs for a living.)

They found the signs were an average of nine inches taller than agreed upon in April.

A stop work order was issued. Now McDonald's finds itself back at City Hall once again.

"Why are we back discussing this again?" asked clearly ticked-off Councilwoman Lisa Goodman during a Zoning and Planning committee meeting on January 8. "They worked out a deal with the neighborhood. Now they're violating the deal with the neighborhood. And now they're questioning whether or not our staff is doing their job correctly."

McDonald's claims city code allows them to measure from the top of the curb, while the city insists on measuring from the pavement, which is where most of the discrepancy lies.

The council denied McDonald's appeal of the stop work order, and no one really knows what's going to happen next.

"We submitted a fully detailed set of plans...and that is exactly what we built," said McDonald's architect, Darren Lazan, at the latest City Council hearing. "We even detailed the exact configuration of the bolts and how the sign would fit together."

It seems absurd that a dispute over a few inches could trigger another round of tedious negotiations, but neighbors have made it clear they want everything enforced down to the inch.

"Frankly it makes us look like a bunch of whiny nitpickers, but we just want this massive corporation to follow the rules like everyone else and be a good neighbor," said Riskin.

Send news tips to Ben Johnson.