Nick's Council Connection (9June2014)

Council Meeting Date: June 9, 2014

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

In committee, we review the levy (flood planning and preparations) and the cafe ordinance. In Council, we consider important resolutions, ordinances and agreements related to city restructuring, boards & commissions, animal control and a slew of normal business.

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

The first committee item is a presentation by the Army Corp of Engineers on the current downtown flood protection levy. The levy, CFLevySystem.JPGfinished in 2000, is designed to protect the life, property and critical assets against a 350-year flood event (.28% chance). This study was undertaken to reduce flood risk via proactive planning and preparation. It evaluated likely failure scenarios such as the the north T wall (near Old Broom Factory), 9th Street Closure, and the CFU tie-in.  The analysis is then used to understand potential breach timing, inundation, emergency response and evacuation. The study was funded by federal appropriations amounting to $70,000. Interestingly, there was no mention of the new flood levy protection system that Cedar Falls will construct in the near future which changes everything. Since the study mainly relates to preparation and planning based on the current levy, I wonder why this is necessary, is the right hand talking to the left? Nevertheless, hopefully it provides unique insights in other planning and prevention strategies throughout the community.

The second item relates to a Community Main Street's and business owner request to review the sidewalk cafe ordinance to relax certain regulations to expand qualified cafe uses and to reduce onerous requirements keeping the end-goal in mind: to encourage more use, enjoyment and safety of public sidewalks, to promote pedestrian activity and social/economic vitality to the district. In my April 28th post, I identified the following business concerns:

  • Prohibitive design and architectural costs
  • Nightly furniture removal, breakdown requirements
  • Certain glass vessel restrictions
  • Food/beverage ratio (60/40) stipulation
  • Overly specific kitchen requirements including stove, grill/broiler, refrigerator definitions
  • Building adjacency requirement


Upon review, specific ordinance modifications could include:

  • Improve the design parameters for barrier fencing - allow semi-permanent fencing (durable materials (non-wood, non-plastic)), attachable to ground (but require repair if removed), allow 'landscaped' fencing, etc. In design consideration for snow management.
  • Reduce burdens for equipment set-up and removal (when properly stored or secured with wire or otherwise). Establish guidelines for area set-up removal or security
  • Eliminate food ratios, but limit outdoor cafes to establishments where food preparation occurs (per Black Hawk county permits)
  • Approve all forms of service ware
  • In lieu of adjacent area, allow clear-path (suggest minimum clear-path of 5' or gator width) and non-adjacent cafe areas
  • Establish criteria for cafe license revocation in the event of recurring complaints or problems in the public space

Other very sensible ordinance (and State) regulations will continue to apply such as no smoking and operational hours restrictions. I see this as a very positive development, building on a successful, albeit overly restrictive, public sidewalk cafe ordinance.

In other agenda items, we receive updates on the Rental Conversion Task Force and Inflow and Infiltration Waste Water programs. There are no supporting materials in the council packet; I will reserve comment until I can gather more information.

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

Special Order of Business

E.1, 2) This hearing and resolution relates to the 2014 Public Sidewalk Repair, Pedestrian Ramp and Patching project. This estimated cost is $156,686. The council materials do not detail the specifics (will present questions to staff), but it is my hope that this will fill some of the many gaps in our pedestrian sidewalk system.  Between the 1950's and 1970's, there were no provisions for sidewalk inclusions in development plans. Eventually, council wisely recognized the value of pedestrian accommodation as an important community element. Today, nearly all developments require sidewalk considerations, just as they require roads and other essential infrastructure. 

sidewalk.JPGE.3, 4) This hearing and resolution relates Zone 5 sidewalk repair. The city undertakes an annual inspection program to identify sidewalk deficiencies for risk management purposes (to avoid getting sued). The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that Iowa cities had a duty to inspect sidewalks in city right-of-way (Spechtenhauser v. City of Dubuque, 1986). This set a judicial precedent where cities are responsible to identify and mitigate sidewalk deficiencies. In Cedar Falls, the city inspects zones rotating over a five year period. Deficient sidewalks (w/ major cracks, holes, and unevenness) are marked and the adjacent homeowner is notified, including mitigation options. The homeowner may repair, contract to repair, or defer to the city for repair (and assessment). I have found that the city's repair costs are very competitive, not surprising given the economies of scale when bundling all the deficiencies into a large city bid package such as this. Something to consider if you see painted dots on your sidewalks.

Old Business - Resolution Calendar 

F.4, 5, 6, 7) These ordinances are up for a the second of three readings and relate to the city's reorganization which will citylean.JPGreduce costs and improve efficacy. I wrote in support of the new structure in my April 14 post.

New Business - Resolution Calendar 

CityLogo.jpgG.2.i) This item relates to an intergovernmental agreement with Waterloo Animal Control to provide animal control services to Cedar Falls. For service, the city needs to uphold its code of ordinances to retrieve animals on the loose, mitigate nuisances (vicious animals) and remove dead creatures including deer. The arrangement should save CF taxpayers more than $30K/yr, we also receive 24-hour service, versus 8-hour today. The Cedar Bend Humane Society will continue to serve as the primary agency for rescue, adoption and education, the agency's strength.

When Waterloo animal control retrieves an animal, they perform an animal assessment and make every reasonable effort to contact owner so they can collect their pets while the city collects fines (in a loose or nuisance animal situation). If no owner is located (CF does have mandatory licensing/microchipping, unification of 'legal' animals should not be an issue), then animal control staff evaluates for adoptability (including evaluation of temperament and health). If adoptable, they will refer it to CBHS for rescue.

This is a good example of metro cooperation. CF reduces the risks of police officer injury, we save about $30,000/year, and our citizens get 24-hour animal control service, and allows the CBHS to serve the core of their mission.

-Nick's Briefs-

University Avenue is in Our Hands - The state offered $20 million based on their minimum needs assessment for the roadUniversityAve.jpg which included design fees, 4 lanes of travel, turn lanes, signals and bike lanes. The offer was 'no-strings-attached'. That is, we take the road in its current condition and its destiny including funding, design, timeline and all project management falls in our hands. Considering this is the most neglected, yet most important transportation corridor in our city, the road will get expedited treatment through our capital improvement process. Within days, we will engage an engineering/design firm to finalize construction plans which should start next season. So while many details remain, one thing is certain, road improvement (form and function) is in our future.  I will have more thoughts to share in the near future... 

Enjoy these fine days!!

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