The City Council meeting this week addressed an agreement with Boy Scout Troop 102, budget amendments, new inspection and permit fees, a sidewalk ramp, rezoning of a parcel on Sibley, and Riverwalk street closures. With the exception of a sidewalk ramp near the Lowell Light and Power building, all agenda items were passed with little to no discussion.
Prior to working on new business, two residents spoke during citizen comments for items not on the agenda. Herb Vanderbilt, who lives on Gee Drive expressed concerns over a recent special land use permit which was granted by the Planning Commission. This permit gives a homeowner on Gee Drive the ability to use the residence as an Airbnb.
Neighbors voiced concerns about the noise, excessive cars, and potential change to the neighborhood a short-term rental would bring. “I regard this as a breakdown in the community.” commented Vanderbilt. He and his neighbors are concerned about the loss of a neighborly feel.
Perry Beachum also spoke at this time. He said he was happy to see work on Hudson and N. Broadway be complete or near completion. He voiced a concern about the use of a contractor for manhole work. He felt City Council should have requested the City Manager make more of an attempt to obtain bids. The contractor used was the only company which placed a bid for the project. He encouraged council and city staff to “be watchful of our dollars”.
The City entered into a 10 year agreement in which Boy Scout Troop 102 will be able to use the land where a cabin they own is occupied in Scout Park. For $1/year the group will maintain the land where the cabin sits and have use of their building for activities run by Troop 102.
A handful of budget amendments were brought before City Council. Most line items were slight adjustments made after passing the budget during their last meeting. Councilmember Canfield asked a few questions about specific items for clarification, which City Manager Mike Burns answered. The amended budget was passed unanimously.
With PCI taking over inspection and permit work for the city beginning in July, City Council approved a new rate schedule of fees for various services. Some fees went up and some went down. Councilmember Canfield mentioned the fees are inline with what other communities would pay, saying this is a good change for the city.
Rezoning of a parcel of land on Sibley from Public Facilities to Single or Two Family Residential was given the all clear from Planning Commission during their June meeting and passed on to City Council for final approval. The land will be used to build homes. The surrounding area has homes established so the change in zoning would not be a detriment to the current neighborhood. This zoning change was passed unanimously.
City Council also passed the closing of Avery Street during Riverwalk weekend so food concessions and the classic car show could take place.
Tabled Until July
One item under new business was tabled until the first meeting in July. A concern over lack of Americans with Disabilities Acts (ADA) access to the Lowell Light and Power building was brought before City Council. During the N. Broadway construction project a ramp from the street to the sidewalk was removed near the Light and Power building. Concerns were brought before City Hall by Perry Beachum over customer access for those who come to the location to pay bills.
In a memo to City Council from City Manager Mike Burns regarding this issue, he indicated it would cost between $1,500 and $2,000 to create a new ramp. He noted ADA parking is available less than 200 feet away from the building. Feeling the city was in compliance and offering ample access, he is not in favor of spending money to create a new ramp. Burns mentioned he spoke with City Attorney Dick Wendt, who is in a wheelchair himself, and was told an additional sidewalk ramp was not needed. Wendt indicated when talking with Burns that he had never had issues getting to the Lowell Light and Power building.
Beachum spoke offering clarification regarding Wendt’s access to the building, saying the ramp used to get from the street to the sidewalk is one which was removed. Councilmember Canfield spoke saying he is in favor of an ADA ramp, citing an aging community and easier access to those not only in wheelchairs but with walkers, canes, and visual impairment. The issue was tabled until the next meeting in order to obtain additional information. Lowell Light and Power General Manager Steve Donkersloot will be contacted for comment, City Attorney Dick Wendt will be asked to give a further opinion, and the construction company who performed the work will be contacted about refunding money not used for all scheduled curb cuts before a final decision is made.
City Manager Report
During his report, City Manager Mike Burns gave an update on street projects. The underground work along S. Broadway has been completed and construction focus will move to the parking lot on the north end of the site. Pavement markings along N. Broadway will be completed in July in conjunction with work being done on the south side of the street.
Smoke testing is complete and a full report will be given to the City shortly. Burns indicated there are some findings the City will need to address but did not want to give details until receiving information.
In recent state legislation the state is giving $300 million dollars to communities to use on roads. The share Lowell received, $47,000 equates to 1/6th of the cost of the Hudson Street project. Burns said, while this helps, it will not solve the overall problems the City has with infrastructure.
Burns also indicated the City’s website revamp is still being worked on. He was able to pass along information this week to be migrated to the new site.
Applicants are still being sought to fill vacant positions. Two spots are available on the Board of Review and one vacancy remains on the LCTV Endowment Board. Anyone interested in filling one of the positions should contact City Hall for an application form to fill out.
The next City Council meeting will take place in Council Chambers on the second floor of City Hall on Monday, July 2 at 7pm. Meeting minutes and agendas can be found on the city’s website. And meetings can be viewed on the city’s YouTube channel. You can also listen to meetings live at WRWW the, Lowell High School’s radio station. Tune in at 92.3. Or check in with Lowell’s First Look after each meeting for a recap of what happened.