Nick's Council Connection (9 September 2013)

Council Meeting Date: September 9, 2013parking.png

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

Parking studies cost real dough, selling the city (a parcel at least), and a trip to the LED wonderland all happens after the council meeting (yep, there will be no pre-council committee meeting). I also discuss leasing land from the city, voluntary annexation, preservation enhancements, over designing, and a bit more.

- Committee of the Whole (after Council Meeting, 35 minutes in Mayor's Conference Room then a field trip)-

parking.pngIn the July 22nd committee of the whole meeting, we tabled the downtown parking study to gather more information.   Community Main Street generously offered up to $10,000 in a cost share arrangement and council instructed staff to gather more detail and cost information. The low-side cost estimate is $75,000, I won't even mention the high side! Understandably, there is a tremendous amount of data and forecasting to be performed along with detailed recommendations on infrastructure and management practices. Given the large expense, we need to evaluate versus other capital expenditure demands through the annual goal setting process. In the mean time, we need to determine how to empower the stakeholders to exercise immediate options for improving parking efficacy. This means running an internal process to develop consensus strategies based on current parking assets, planning, and management tools to determine the best execution plan to meet the near-term challenges. As the growth plays out in the area, we will need to respond accordingly. I would like to recommend that the city concede all the powers of parking to the local stakeholders. City Hall isn't in the best position to make or execute downtown parking strategies.

We discuss city staff's recommendation to vacate and sell a little stub of Tremont street to adjacent property owners. TremontVacation.JPG
Originally it was proposed to sell the city property based on the average valuation of adjacent properties which would amount to slightly over $19,000. The property owner contested the valuation since there will remain a significant easement and it would be undevelopable. Rather, she suggested a nearby park be the valuation comparison which would amount to over $9000. Admittedly, the 'park' valuation is a little wonky because you would think it would inherit adjacent valuations for taxation purposes. The city is obligated to sell property at its fair market value. So what is fair market? Classic gray space. Probably very little due to the easement restrictions. I prefer to sell the property to generate some cash from a willing buyer (probably the only one out there) and put it on the tax roles.  I'm comfortable with this 'negotiation' and it seems to be in the best interest of the taxpayer. Further, it will be sold in such a way that will obligate the owner to sell at the same price if any portion of the property would be needed for 1st Street reconstruction (which is on the 5-year Capital Improvement Plan).

As previously discussed in my April 8, 2013, post, we are moving forward on the conversion of HPS (high pressure sodium) to LED (light emitting diode) street lights. The new lights are more efficient and will save significant dollars in both energy and maintenance expense (more than $3MM over 20 years!). Along with Cedar Falls Utilities reps, Council is reviewing a pilot light locations to better understand lighting options and lumen characteristics. In certain cases, we may be able to reduce lighting infrastructure in some areas given the lumen distributive properties of the fixtures. This is a smart investment, I will report our final payback numbers when the model is complete. Most of the conversion work will be done in 2014 by CFU technicians. Check out Sunset Blvd, Pleasant Dr., Garden Ave., and Scenic Dr. to see different manufacturer lights - let me know if you have feedback!!

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

New Business

F.1.g) It must be that time of year to enjoy the streets. This item deals with several request for street closures - from hog roasts to pink ribbon runs. I am pleased we are so receptive and supportive of neighborhood and community events. Many cities will charge for such a request, but why encumber fun and good causes? The incremental cost to the city is minimal during these time periods.

Resolution Calendar

F.2.g) This item relates to leasing flood buy-out property to a private individual. The city encourages private residents to lease buy-out properties. The lessee is obliged to maintain the property which saves the city maintenance expense. The city charges $1 for a 1-2 year term. The main stipulation is that the parcel must remain 'greenspace' or garden-like. Normally the properties are maintained by adjacent property owners, but anyone enter into a contract. There is no open bidding, if you are interested in a flood buy-out parcel, just inquire with City Hall.

F.2.i) This item considers a quit claim deed for the voluntary annexation of property adjacent to the Meadows addition. This AnnexationCompPlan.JPGexpands the city's boundaries to the west for more Skogman houses. Our Comprehensive Plan (approved in 2012) recognizes that increased residential demand may drive annexation. It goes further to recommend that annexation be based on the topographical watershed. The property owners are voluntarily requesting annexation as part of a Skogman's purchase agreement. I was researching our Comprehensive Plan. Interestingly, the northern half of the annexation is planned for light residential while the south is high density. Traditionally, Skogman has specialized in single family homes. Since the new Copm Plan was adopted, we've been very willing to amend it according to developer desire. I'm not sure this is always a good thing.

EyebrowWindow.JPGF.2.l) There's more rehabilitation going on in downtown.  116-118 Main will replace the current undersized windows and false wood section with historically appropriate double hung windows with eyebrow tops. The memo only discusses the windows, but the approval schematic shows that the shake shingle awning will be replaced as well (which should delight any preservation aficionado). This item goes before City Council because the downtown is in an overlay district which requires exterior design review and approval for certain modifications.

F.2.q) In the item, we consider expanding parking lot landscaping requirements as defined in our overlays to the city at large. The parking lot landscape design requirements are quite reasonable. While what is good for one, is good for the whole could be considered statist, greenscaping has numerous advantages.  So what right does the city have in requiring it? Parking lots should be integral parts of the stormwater management (proactive mitigation, and yes, many of the city experience inundation due to storm water), it demarks property, and provides hardscaping relief. Too much hardscaping has lousy consequences on adjacent properties and the overall environment. We can make many improvements to our parking lot requirements (i.e. zone parking); this represents an incremental improvement.

F.3) The cafe ordinance moved from committee to full council to remove the 'cultural district' requirement which allows any properly commercially zoned property to apply for cafes, chairs and table, sign permissions. In committee, we also agreed to review the ordinance to reduce certain requirements which in my humble opinion, are downright cumbersome, onerous, and confusing. Hopefully, we can liberalize outdoor enjoyment!

-Nick's Briefs-

Viking Road, Build it and they... In my March 11, 2013, blog, I commented that a bigger pipe doesn't move more water. The latest data on this section of Viking Road construction measures about 5,500 cars per day. The new design can carry 27,000 based on Iowa traffic engineering standards. Over-engineering roads comes at a real cost both direct and indirect. To sum it up, we have a limited capital budget. Wasted spending means we forgo other projects or make property taxes unnecessarily high. There isn't a road in Cedar Falls that is operating at capacity. If congestion occurs, it is likely bad intersection design that inhibits traffic flow, not a lack of lanes.  Added lanes also create exponentially more conflict points, so the roads become less safe.

In the photos below, notice the construction and the existing section to the East. The road is a classic example of car worship. There is no accommodation on Viking road for pedestrians or cyclists despite there being a emerging residential area to the west and a major commercial area to the east with about 5000 jobs in between.  

There are better ways, just saying.

 VikingRoadConstruction.jpg  VikingRoad.jpg


Going the Distance Many of you commented that I forgot my link to my pre-Ironman commentary. Well, now I completed the epilogue, Going the Distance


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