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Council approves first reading amending off-street parking ordinance

By Kelly Terpstra,

The Charles City Council approved the first reading of an ordinance that would reduce off-street parking restrictions for housing redevelopment projects on Monday.

Amendments to Chapter 22 of the zoning ordinance would include the use of the right-of-way – the area behind the curb – for off-street parking. That use would be limited to low-volume roads and restricted to diagonal parking. Only redevelopment housing projects with limited space for off-street parking would qualify.

“That’d be on a case-by-case basis,” said City Engineer John Fallis.

Other changes that are proposed in the ordinance would allow developers or contractors to be able to dictate the thickness of pavement on paving projects and lighting requirements.

“What we’re looking at is changing the design standards to make it a little bit more less restrictive and a little bit user-friendly in the hopes of eliminating all the waiver requests that we’ve been receiving lately,” said Fallis.

Shawn Foutch, a Johnston developer and owner of JMAE LLC, presented a plan late last March for a potential $4 million construction project for the 500 North Grand Building. That redevelopment would turn the 1930s portion of the old middle school into market-rate apartments.

The city’s current zoning ordinance requires more parking space per dwelling for multi-family housing than most other communities. The current ordinance of 2.2 parking spaces per dwelling would be reduced to 1.5 upon council approval of changes.

Foutch referenced the Institute of Traffic Engineers as saying that 1.5 is more in line with everyday use.

“We’ve done a bunch of these schools so we know how many people park in our lot,” Foutch said. “I have to have a little bit of creativity about how I solve parking problems when I’m stuffing them into a neighborhood that’s already developed, wrapped around a school.”

The council also approved a $16,000 project to maintain the Charles City Housing Department’s boilers at the South Cedar Terrace Apartments. There are 20 buildings on the property, with one boiler heating four apartments. Work on the boilers includes material and labor to replace 80 valves. The boilers will also be cleaned and serviced. The cost to replace the boilers was estimated at $220,000. Maintenance on the boilers was deemed more cost effective. The boilers have been in operation since 1994.

Charles City received $920,000 of SWAP funding from the Iowa DOT to begin the HMA Overlay Project this summer. The project will lay down hot mix asphalt on North Jackson and South Main streets. SEH (Short Elliott Hendrickson) did the design work on the project and asked for $9,600 in additional fees after more field work was required to put in more storm sewers. That request was granted by the council on Monday.

City Administrator Steve Diers addressed some of the concern about the smell emanating from Simply Essentials, the chicken plant at 901 N. Main. Diers said the normal source that would haul out the waste product at the plant was closed or couldn’t accept material. He said another company will now take the material out of the plant.

“Up until that, it was getting quite pungent,” said Diers.

Diers said the search to replace longtime Parks and Recreation Director Steve Lindaman has been whittled down to six candidates. Each applicant was interviewed last week. There were 48 initial resumes submitted for the position.

Other action taken at the meeting is as follows:

– Charles City’s Iowa Department of Natural Resource SRF (State Revolving Fund) loan with a past water plant project saw its interest rate reduce from 3 percent to 1.75. This would save Charles City well over $500,000 on the remaining term of the loan, which will end in 10 years. The city approved Resolution No. 63-19 to accept the reduction of the interest rate for the Taxable Water Revenue Bond.

– City budget amendments need to be sent to the state by May 31. A public hearing of May 20 was set for the required amendment. Some of the reasons for the increase of the budget are the Charley Western Trail Bridge demolition, property purchased for the WRRF (Water Resource Recovery Facility), snow removal costs and the addition of the city-operated transit system. Tax rates will not change because of the changes.

– Hopp Storage is expanding its facility with a 40-by-50-foot building. A resolution was approved to waive off-street parking requirements for the facility.

– The council approved to set a public hearing date of May 20 for a proposed storm sewer easement to Immaculate Conception Church to improve surface drainage on the south side of church’s offices.

– The council approved the city’s insurance package renewal by EMC. The total package is comprised of $180,607 for worker’s compensation and over $222,000 for the rest of the coverage.

– The first reading of Ordinance 1131 was approved to amend and allow student representatives on the Charles City Historic Preservation Commission. The changes, upon council approval, would allow student representatives on the commission that lived within the Charles City School district.

The next City Council planning session will take place at 6 p.m.  Wednesday, May 15, at the Wildwood Golf Course clubhouse. City Clerk Trudy O’Donnell said the change of venue for the planning workshop is part of a new idea of a traveling series for the workshops. Planning sessions are normally held in the council chambers. There may be a golf-cart tour of the course before the meeting takes place.