CEDAR FALLS – Mayor Rob Green intends to veto a proposed moratorium on building permits for projects in downtown commercial areas if city council approves it.
The resolution will go to council on Tuesday (Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day), the same day councilors will begin reviewing the newly adopted zoning code for the downtown area.
“While I support changing the zoning ordinance to make it more acceptable to more council members, my concern about a moratorium is that stopping building permits would cause more harm than good to the economic development of our city, due to a perceived lack of council support for continued development, ”Green wrote in a Jan 8 blog post.
Council voted 4-3 earlier this month to consider a moratorium on building permits until May 1 as it reconsiders the downtown zoning ordinance. The new code received final approval on November 1, but returned to the agenda due to the change in council composition following municipal elections.
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City law allows a mayor to veto a resolution within 14 days of its passage. The board has 30 days to override, but a two-thirds majority – at least five members – must approve.
Green claimed in a telephone interview on Wednesday that he was ready to listen to any arguments in favor of the moratorium, but so far he has heard none that has changed his mind.
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“My biggest concern is the message and the deterrent effect it would have on the business world and those looking to invest,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that I can’t be swayed, but on principle I don’t see that happening.”
Green said he heard concerns from a dozen people, including Erik Skougard, president and CEO of Lincoln Savings Bank, who he said made a “compelling argument” against a moratorium. This correspondence from Skougard will be available for the public to review ahead of the moratorium vote, he said.
If council approves the moratorium and the mayor signs it, the building permit ban would impact the Urban General, Urban General 2, and Storefront designations in the New Downtown Zoning District, also known as of Downtown Character District, where the “controversial form” of land use zoning has replaced traditional land use zoning.
These designated areas encompass parts of Main, Washington, State, Clay, as well as West First Streets at Eighth, as well as a few smaller areas of downtown.
This would stop permits for new construction, but also other projects “triggering” the need for such a permit as determined by the building official, city attorney Kevin Rogers said.
Rogers said it would be the first such moratorium he saw since being hired by the city in five years, but not the first in Cedar Falls history. He pointed to an Iowa Supreme Court case involving an enacted for College Hill in 2009.
Councilors Daryl Kruse, Dustin Ganfield, Susan deBuhr and Dave Sires voted in favor of expanding the moratorium on January 3. Council also voted 6-1 to hold a business meeting to discuss the new code at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday.
Councilors have unofficially agreed to put a “pause” on implementing a vision for a new zoning law on College Hill, with a majority vote to withdraw funding for the initiative in fiscal year 2023.
In a telephone interview, Kruse, who proposed the moratorium and insisted on changing aspects of the new code, urged the mayor to wait until all the evidence has been presented before deciding to veto it.
“We have always been told that when we vote we have to listen to all public testimony,” Kruse said. “He would predetermine his vote without listening to everyone. I want to make sure we all know who responded to him individually and what their concerns were. “
When asked about a possible compromise, Kruse doesn’t think there’s room for it, “with 75 properties affected by overbuilding and under-parking.”
He noted that the moratorium is not too extreme since the new code is “on the books”, and plans can go ahead if they meet the new requirements.
There are concerns for him and others, whether it be the number of parking spaces required per room for residential spaces, the “shared” parking requirement, limits on the use of pavements. vinyl or Town Planning and Zoning Board substitution in cases with a staff-led review.
Last week, director of community development Stephanie Houk Sheetz said no projects had been approved under the new code.
“I recognize that there are two new board members here, but I also feel like this is the time when we say it takes more staff time,” said Councilor Kelly Dunn, who voted against the moratorium and the revision of the code. She pointed out that many people are in favor of the new code.
“We keep asking staff to take the time to chat and we haven’t even given them a chance, so I guess that’s my point of view. I’m trying to understand why it is so bad in my opinion, ”she added.