Nick's Council Connection (10 March 2014)

Council Meeting Date: March 10, 2014allure.jpg

Council Meeting Location: City Hall, 220 Clay St, Cedar Falls, IA 50613

The Emerald Ash Borer (a pretty, destructive bug), landmark sculpture, Prairie Parkway.

- Committee of the Whole (5:00pm, Mayor's Conference Room, ELECTRONIC AGENDA)-

The meeting starts in Executive Session to discuss collective bargaining. This is expected to last 30 minutes and is closed to the public (per Iowa Code Section 20.17(3)) since it relates to workforce negotiations.  

ashtree.jpgNext, we receive an update on the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). EAB was brought to the United States in 2002. It traveled from Asia to Detroit in packaging. It has rapidly spread throughout the midwest and is set to victimize Iowa ash trees for the next decade.

In the larval stage, the EAB feasts on the cambium layer (the tree's vascular system) causing mortality within 2-3 years. This year, Black Hawk County officials confirmed its existence in Black Hawk county, which means it is only be a matter of time before the Ash species disappears in Cedar Falls. The city must contemplate a multi-year plan to remove most trees on city-owned property. It is estimated that ash represents 20% of the urban tree stock. This is a sad day for this beloved tree. The main lesson learned is the importance of promoting species diversity. This will be a time consuming, expensive endeavor. The council presentation puts the response options on the table.  

We also talk about the landmark art sculpture contemplated for West Ridgeway Avenue. Cedar Falls' inventory of public art is impressive, a recognizable attribute of our city. Art can be found on the sidewalks of our downtown cultural district, trailheads and city entry points. It represents expressions of our landscapes ("Epic"), architecture ("Allure"), and even our moving picture heritage ("Showtime"). 

epic.jpgThis art's funding sources was the initial debate. Usage of TIF funds were scrutinized, justifiably so when considering the main purpose of the TIF legislation is to promote urban renewal and economic development. In response, the Public Art Committee will seek alternate funding to bring this vision to reality. The only issue now seems to be location. The Committee has given careful consideration and will present their case for West Ridgeway Avenue - a very visible entry point to the Industrial Park and future commercial corridor. I think most of the opponents are more opposed to the roundabout than the art piece. It will be interesting to hear the rationale for exploring alternate locations.   I predict this will be one of the most functional travel corridors in the city - efficient, safe and beautiful. A great deal of thanks should be extended to the committed visionaries of the Public Art Committee. 

-Regular Council Meeting (7:00pm, Council Chamber, ELECTRONIC AGENDA)-

Special Order of Business

 E.2.3) Sets a public hearing and resolution to condemn a home at 1022 Bluff Street. Condemnation is the forcible taking or modification of private property. Condemnation is a tool of last resort to compel a property owner to fix what is determined to be a serious public health, safety or welfare risk. In other cases, it can be used in eminent domain proceedings where the forcible taking is done for public use - most commonly for public utilities or infrastructure. It is incumbent upon all elected officials holding condemnation powers to keep very high standards for use of the power. Since this is a judicial matter, I won't comment on the specific facts. Rather, it is my intent to inform the reader of condemnation powers.

New Business - Resolution Calendar 

G.1.d 3.k) This item relates to the letting of the plans, specifications and contract for the Prairie Parkway extension that will connect Greenhill Road to Brandilynn Blvd. Prairie Parkway is a major infrastructure priority to relieve traffic congestion at the Viking and Highway 58 intersection. The plans are well conceived and I look forward to passing this resolution to improve connectivity of the Viking corridor. I comment on a related correspondence in Nick's Briefs

G.3.e) This item sets set a public hearing to acquire property for the Greenhill Road extension (from Hudson to University Ave). This is an important road extension in fulfilling the Greenhill arterial, part of the transportation master plan.  Eventually, this section of road will provide for an alternate route to UNI which will relieve traffic demands on Hudson while providing for off-road accommodation for non-motorized users.

-Nick's Briefs-

My response to a moratorium request was a subject of debate. It may have been construed that I wasn't concerned about the risks at Viking and Highway 58. I am seriously concerned. All staff and elected officials are working to improve the corridor. I have been critical of planning approach for Viking Road since it was gravel. Our transportation plan was either poorly conceived or the area rapidly grew beyond our wildest expectations. We are addressing neglected connectivity issues in the most expeditious manner possible. But despite the issues, we must recognize property rights and the perceived versus actual benefit of a moratorium, which in essence, is a form of condemnation. 

I share your concerns regarding the urgency for improvements at 58 and Viking. There is certainly a causal relationship to the performance of the intersection and development throughout the Viking corridor. The city has undertaken a number of projects to relieve the intersection including the Mayors Bridge and the imminent Prairie Parkway in the short term. A moratorium, however, amounts to a forcible restriction on property rights and free market forces. The justification of a moratorium is all shades of gray, but it would have to identify clear, undeniable, impact on the 'collective good'. It also needs to be time-based, or it is no different than a ban. In my mind, consumers and employees have a choice, the 'risk' for traveling in this corridor is factored in their decision making process. My priority is improving the intersection, connectivity of the area, and better accommodation of all transportation users. I am not in favor of the moratorium. I appreciate your attention to the matter and will continue to push for improvements throughout the area.

Nick Taiber
Cedar Falls Council at Large

I could have used softer words, but it isn't in my 'matter of fact' nature. In the mean time, Prairie Parkway will be moving forward this year, the Viking overpass is advancing through planning, and pedestrian and bicycle routes have dramatically improved (and will continue as other infrastructure is built). Of course, I would love to hear from you on this or any other topic.

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