Dan DeGeest’s Council Review, November 13, 2017: Rental Occupancy, Healthy Life Center

Annotating the Council Preview in highlighted text

Hello friends,

I apologize for the delay in getting this Council Review finished. The last few weeks have been very hectic for me and the gradually shorter days often make it feel like there are just not enough hours in the day for everything I want to accomplish.

Before tackling the review I would like to take a moment to congratulate the winners in the Nov. 7 election and thank everyone who ran. I look forward to continuing to watch the council in 2018 under new leadership from mayor-elect John Haila. Congratulations David Martin for your win in Ward 3. Congratulations Gloria Betcher and Amber Corrieri; thank you for signing up for another four years. I would also like to genuinely thank outgoing Mayor Ann Campbell and Councilman Peter Orazem for their years of service — I trust you will enjoy your newly found free time.

To the those who did not emerge victorious — thank you for caring and taking a chance, I understand how you are probably feeling. After coming up short in the 2015 Ward 4 race I was disappointed and wasn’t really sure where to go next, but quickly realized there are so many ways to stay involved and impact the city we all love. Take satisfaction in the hard work you put in and after the dust settles you will find your way to stay engaged.

New criteria for limiting rental occupancy was a big topic of discussion and something that will be discussed again at the Nov. 14 meeting. See below for details and as always, thanks for reading.


The Ames City Council meeting for Oct. 24, 2017. The agenda included:

Item 23: Options for limiting occupancy for rental units

As part of our ongoing discussions regarding rental regulations, the council is considering three related but distinct issues: how to regulate occupancy of each rental unit (adults per square foot, per parking space, or per bedroom); how to regulate the overall percentage of rentals within a given geographic area; and how to step up enforcement efforts of current rental codes.

“I just bought a two-bedroom house, but I think I get to decide how many bedrooms there are, don’t you? This bedroom has an oven in it! This bedroom’s got a lot of people sitting around watching TV.” — Mitch Hedberg

With the temporary moratorium on new rental agreements moving forward, the council is ready to decide on the long-term plan for managing rental occupancy now that familial status can no longer be used. There were many options proposed in the council action item and when I think about this issue that comedy bit from Hedberg always comes to mind. It is a pretty good description of what people fear will happen without limits imposed and, honestly, probably true for student rentals where expectations are often lower when the price is right.

Options put forth to determine occupancy limit included building size, bedroom size, total number of bedrooms (again, what is a bedroom?), and number of off-street parking spaces. There was a lot of discussion and a good amount of public input and then the end the council moved to tie the number of occupants allowed to the number of bedrooms and the available parking.

Motion to define number of required bedrooms to the number of adult occupants minus one passed 6-0. So two adults in a one-bedroom, three adults in a two-bedroom, and so on up to five adults (see later motion).

Motion to define number of off-street parking space is equal to the number of bedrooms passed 6-0.

Motion to establish a cap of five adults in any low density rental passed 4-2 (Betcher and Corrieri NO).

Motion that parking spaces will be in the garage, driveway, or existing legal parking spaces as of January 2018 passed 4-2 (Beatty-Hansen and Corrieri NO).

Motion for staff to create a report over the period of the moratorium regarding options for limiting the addition of bedrooms to existing properties passed 5-1 (Corrieri NO).

Motion for a staff report on options for penalties for code violations, Airbnb in relation to rentals, and unregistered rental properties passed 6-0.

Item 24: Aquatic facilities options

We’re in the middle of our planning study for the healthy life center, and now we need to decide what size of pool we want before the consultant can proceed with final estimates. Rough cost estimates are included for the facility are approaching $50 million, even with the smallest proposed size of pool.

The big news here is that the Ames Community School District will not be part of this project and will pursue its own pool needs with the Ames Cyclone Aquatics Club. This changes the project quite a bit since a competition size pool is no longer a consideration for the healthy life center. It eliminates a lot of debate and gives the consultant clear direction to continue working on the least costly option, a facility with recreational and therapeutic pools only.

Item 25: Amendment to depot development agreement

Earlier in 2017, the council agreed to an updated development agreement for the depot which would allow some of the parking to be reserved for private use. Staff want to make sure that language requiring building entrances to face public streets is retained in the updated agreement.

The council already agreed to changes to the Depot development agreement to allow this new project to convert public parking spaces into private spaces for use by its tenants. Additionally, it requested that all language from the original development agreement be removed, since that project is finished, and have only the relevant provisions going forward. City planning staff had some concerns with this, particularly the removal of requirements for public, street-facing building entrances, which they stated was a core tenet of the original agreement and included to promote and retain the pedestrian storefront feel of Main Street. Not surprisingly, the applicant feels that these entrance provisions are limiting and inhibit their project, which seems to be more focused on office space than retail.

Item 26: Community development block grant homebuyer assistance program resale and recapture provisions in connection with development of 321 State Ave.

Because the affordable homes at 321 State Ave. are subsidized, the city has an interest in the re-selling of these properties. The council will consider how we pursue the recapture of these funds over time. For example, if the city subsidizes a property for the amount of $15,000, and that property gets resold the following year, it would be reasonable for the city to expect some of its $15,000 back. On the other hand, if a property is owned by one family for a longer time (over 10 years, say), staff are proposing a reduced payback penalty.

This affordable housing project has been languishing for several years, the city is still struggling to get this project going, and this issue is just one more wrinkle. You may recall from a previous review that the city only got one proposal for this project and now finds itself in a back and forth negotiations with them over details like this one. There was some discussion and a proposal put forth by the developer, but nobody seemed ready to resolve the issue. A motion to table it for a future council meeting passed 6-0.

Item 28: Hearing on major site development plan for two eight-unit apartment buildings to be located at 3305 Aurora Ave. and 3315 Aurora Ave.

These apartment buildings to the south of Oakwood Road and west of University Boulevard look similar to a neighboring apartment building that was approved at the last council meeting. They feature metal materials on parts of the exterior, in an effort to build something that doesn’t look identical to other apartment buildings.

Seeing as a similar project was approved at the previous meeting, there were no surprises here and a motion approving the major site development plan passed 6-0.

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