Nick's Council Connection (28 April 2014)

Council Meeting Date: April 28, 2014CollegeHillPlaza.JPG

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

In Committee, we talk about the federal Clean Water Act. In Council, we consider Minimum Rental Housing amendments and banning multi-unit conversions. In my Briefs, I plea to revisit the Sidewalk Cafe Ordinance. I offer my thoughts below.

- Committee of the Whole (6:00pm, Mayor's Conference Room, ELECTRONIC AGENDA)-

stormwatercontainment.JPGWe hear a presentation on the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), part of the Clean Water Act (1948 & 1972), and how we are responding to the federal regulation.

I receive frequent feedback on the $3/month stormwater fee paid by each property owner in the city. I also hear from developers on their compliance burden (silt fences, retention, riparian zones, etc.). And by feedback, I mean complaints. Without adequate knowledge of the regulation, many of the concerns seem justified. I don't, and nobody should accept regulation on face value. We need to be confident in the science, reasonableness and the cost/benefit of every regulation. In the case of stormwater, if not properly managed, it can be a source of danger (i.e. flooding) and carrier of pollutants (i.e. soil or nutrients). Before I continue, let me say a few words about shared resources.

If there is no resource steward, if we cannot cost externalities into products or services, regulation may be warranted. Water and air are shared resources without stewards, there is no owner. Without ownership, massive bodies of resources can easily suffer from the tragedy of the commons, or overuse, neglect, exploitationLook no further than the oceans - many have become a vast dumping grounds for garbage. By many measures, the Pacific garbage patch (gyres) is twice the size of the continental United States. In the Gulf of Mexico, the hypoxic (low oxygen) dead zone is larger than the size of Connecticut. Both have long-range implications on our food supply, ecology and economy. When a resource has no owner, regulation may have a place. But it's effectiveness needs to be continuously evaluated.

This presentation will inform council so we can speak knowledgeably to concerns. We will review the following ordinances (Chapter 22 of CF code of ordinances) that were developed to comply with federal NPDES system. We will also explore examples where we put stormwater fees to work. I also hope we listen to developer concerns to explore innovative approaches that may not be in our current regulations, yet serve the goals of the NPDES.PermeablePavers.jpg

  • Storm Water Management Program - 2006
  • Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination - 2006
  • Construction Site Erosion and Sediment Control - 2006
  • Post-Construction Stormwater Control - 2010

With this body of code, we seek to minimize flooding, siltation, water temperature fluctuation, erosion, bacteria, chemical run-off and other pollutants and negative run-off effects. For the city's part, later in the evening we pass a resolution accepting a bid for 62,000 square feet of Permeable Alley on College Hill to help fix the biologically, bacterial impaired Dry Run Creek.  75% of the cost will be covered by the Black Hawk Soil and Water Conservation District, 25% from stormwater fees. 

As always, we also review Bills and Payroll. The Mayor is requesting we approve a bill for $4,079 to Franklin Covey for 7-Habits leadership training after the fact. Since this wasn't budgeted, $1600 will come from the Mayor's travel and education account (the current available balance). The remainder, $2400, will be paid for through contingency funds. I support training, but the city is literally counting pennies. I only need to verify the efficacy of the the Habits training. 

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

Special Order of Business

E.7) This item relates to the amended Residential Rental Housing Code, to make it conform with residential and building codes. Chief Schilling is suggesting we suspend the rules to pass in one meeting (ordinarily ordinances require three readings) at the request of developers. I make this note to inform the public - if there are objections to passing in one night, let me know.

Old Business - Resolution Calendar 

F.1) With this item, we remove Ordinance #2806 from the table - banning conversions of single-family homes to multi-unit residential homes. Originally we tabled because the Council felt it should be part of the broader Rental Task Force review. I can't explain why this has been re-introduced for the final reading when the work of the Task Force continues. I made my thoughts known on this issue in my January 13 post.

New Business - Resolution Calendar 

We will consider many items of interest. From approving the Union contract with the Firefighters Associations to slip-lining our sewers. There's much to approve, but not a lot to talk about. 

-Nick's Briefs-

Sidewalk Cafe Ordinance - We've had this Ordinance on the standing agenda for some time. On March 10th, Councilman Wieland withdrew his referral of the Sidewalk Cafe Ordinance due to lack of input. I have reached out to several business owners and realize there is overwhelming desire to review the regulations. Just a few of the concerns:SohoCafe.jpg

  • Design and architectural costs
  • Furniture removal, breakdown requirements
  • Time restrictions
  • Certain glass vessel restrictions
  • Food/beverage ratio (60/40) stipulation
  • Separate kitchen with stove, grill/broiler, refrigerator equipment requirements ... 
  • Building adjacency requirement

Actually, there are too many items to list. Current cafes are out of compliance and the ordinance is a hot mess.

Sidewalk cafes are something to embrace. They create a unique, indisputable vibrancy to a space. I think it is difficult to underestimate the subtle impacts that overly restrictive codes place on job creation, economic development and self-determination. Code can be arbitrary, it can be overly ambiguous which is wrong. Changing code requires a herculean effort, courage, time and energy. I hope we can find the will to change, to allow more freedom and enjoyment in our public spaces, to allow more of a good thing.

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