Gravel driveways could go the way of the dirt road in Brooklyn Center.

A proposal to upgrade materials for new driveways is part of a long-term study of city codes in the city. Other items getting a look are the number, state and placement of cars in residents' yards; snow and ice removal, and rubbish placement.

In 2008 and 2010, the City Council amended the city code to require that vehicles stored outdoors be licensed and operable. The city also limits outdoor placement of commercial vehicles and on-street parking.

The appearance of a neighborhood can affect perceptions -- and eventually the reality -- of safety and quality of life in a city, said Vickie Schleuning, Brooklyn Center's assistant city manager.

"Having strong, healthy neighborhoods is very important to the future and vitality of a community," she said. "We have a lot of properties that are out there selling really quickly. We want our neighborhoods to look the best they can to attract very responsible and involved residents."

The current discussion is over a variety of code changes related to vehicle storage, including a section that requires new driveways to have an "improved parking surface" of concrete, asphalt, brick or other hard material.

Driveways made of gravel that were improved or created before June 1 may remain for now. However, the city holds out the right to require replacement with a hard surface if they are not maintained in good condition, "free of deterioration, potholes, erosion or hazardous conditions." Future upgrades must be done according to the new code.

Following up on complaints last winter, city officials offered a survey to residents to gauge opinions about properties' appearance. The city mailed more than 12,000 copies and made the survey available online. Only 353 were returned.

The nonscientific results indicated that some residents believe:

• Cars should not be parked on grassy or landscaped areas.

• Residents should have four or fewer vehicles and two or fewer boats or trailers on one property.

• Driveways should be concrete, paved or brick.

• Waste containers should be in garages or side/back yards.

• Property owners should be required to remove snow from their driveways.

The resulting proposed code language sets standard definitions for front, side and back yards, limits driveway materials and limits paved surfaces to 50 percent of total yard space.

A drive through Brooklyn Center reveals few gravel driveways scattered in the city's neighborhoods. Similarly, only a handful of houses had cars parked on the grass to either side of their driveways. A few driveways were packed.

The city has considered limiting how many cars can be parked on a single property; this round of amendments doesn't directly address that, but Schleuning noted that limitations on driveway space accomplish the same objective.

The proposals would largely put the city in line with its neighbors' codes. Blaine similarly requires hard driveway surfaces on new construction. Brooklyn Park allows gravel pads for nonmotorized vehicles only (boats, trailers) and allows commercial vehicles outside with restrictions.

Both Blaine and Andover restrict some commercial vehicles, depending on weight and size. Maple Grove allows gravel pads for vehicle storage, but all vehicles must be licensed and total impervious space (driveway, house and other buildings) can't exceed 40 percent of the total property.

The city will consider residents' comments over the next few weeks, and Schleuning hopes to take a final draft to the council this fall.

Maria Elena Baca • 612-673-4409