Bronwyn’s Council Preview, April 24, 2018: Rental Cap, Downtown Gateway Zoning, and Draft Complete Streets Plan

The City Council meeting starts at 6 p.m., and I’m wagering on a six-hour meeting. The agenda includes (but is not limited to):

Item 40: Downtown gateway zoning district

This is the second time the Downtown gateway zoning concept has appeared before the council. My synopsis the first time was: The stretch of Lincoln Way from Grand to Duff was identified as the “downtown gateway” area by our recent Lincoln Way Corridor Study, and was selected as our primary focus area along Lincoln Way. Staff are suggesting a special zoning for the area that would encourage commercial, retail, and entertainment uses, and has some modified parking standards. We are again considering this zoning district.

a. Explanation of non-conforming and pre-existing

Some current properties would be made “non-conforming” if this new zoning district is put in place. The council directed staff to explain what limitations this might mean for property owners, and asked staff for a count of how many properties this would affect. In addition, we asked staff to give us a figure for how many properties are already non-conforming to the current zoning. (Detailed in the next item)

b. Review of inventory of non-conforming properties in proposed Downtown gateway zoning district

As per Council’s request, staff are reporting back the number of properties that would be non-conforming with the new zoning (70), and the number that are already currently non-conforming (55).

c. Discussion of Downtown gateway zoning district boundary options

Staff have presented a handful of options, ranging from the originally-proposed Grand-to-Duff map to a number of smaller areas within this stretch of Lincoln Way.

Item 41: Rental concentration cap (First passage of ordinance)

I have gotten more feedback on this topic than any other during my time on the council. It is clearly very important to many people, both for and against the rental cap. The ordinance up for discussion caps rental permits at 25 percent in three near-campus neighborhoods: the South Campus Area (including Colonial Village), Oak-to-Riverside, and College Creek-Old Ames Middle School. While we would grandfather in existing rentals, this means that no new rental permits will be issued if the neighborhood is over 25 percent rentals. Proponents of the cap say it is necessary to prevent the loss of the remaining single-family neighborhoods in their areas. Opponents of the cap argue that the market will correct itself before that happens, and that property values will diminish if rental is not an option. This is an issue the council has been grappling with for a long time, culminating in this proposed ordinance.

Item 43: Brookside Park path lighting project

This item was tabled from a prior agenda, to give staff time to reach out to avian and wildlife experts at Iowa State University regarding the effect of light pollution. To modify the project to include a different type of bulb, light temperature, and possible timers would cost an additional $25,000.

Item 44: Requests from Main Street Cultural District for RAGBRAI on Main on Tuesday, July 24

These RAGBRAI requests all relate to the downtown entertainment area, including street closure of Main from Pearle to Douglas, and a request to allow the consumption of alcohol within the designated entertainment area.

Item 45: Progress report on complete streets plan development

The consultant and focus groups are reporting back on a draft complete streets plan. Because of the potential for increased costs of implementing a complete streets plan, the council asked staff to bring back the draft for review before it is finalized. This draft includes a description of street types and a matrix for determining which features are appropriate for any given street type. More public input will be sought at a June meeting, once these draft materials are published.


Thanks for reading,

Bronwyn Beatty-Hansen
City Council At-Large

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Bronwyn Beatty-Hansen
Bronwyn Beatty-Hansen is an at-large member of the Ames City Council. She is also a manager at Wheatsfield Cooperative and the co-owner of Cycles Recycling.