City Council Meeting 10/23/2012
The Carbondale City Council met at the city hall/civic center at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 23, 2012. As usual, I watched the meeting from home on Mediacom channel 16. A summary and brief comments follow.
The meeting began with roll call and announcements and proclamations. The city manager announced that city council meetings will soon stream live on the city’s website. City council meetings are one of the main reasons I keep Mediacom, so if streaming works out I may be soon be entirely without cable. Hooray!
After roll call and announcements and proclamations, council held a public hearing on extending the life of the Downtown Special Service Area Number One, also known as the Main Street district, for another five years. One property owner in the district expressed concerns that the southern portion of the Main Street district doesn’t receive much benefit from the organization and another property owner asked if Main Street has specific plans to execute its goals. The Main Street director responded to those comments and then the public hearing was closed.
After the public hearing, council moved on to the consent agenda. In a break with tradition, no council member – not even Don Monty – pulled any item from the consent agenda. A member of the public requested that item 4.5 be pulled. Council approved the rest of the consent agenda unanimously.
Item 4.5 (pdf) was an ordinance authorizing the extension of the Downtown Special Service Area Number One (Main Street) for an additional five years. The audience member who pulled the item was the same one who expressed concern that the southern portion of the district doesn’t receive enough benefit from the district. That person requested that the special service area be extended for less than the proposed five years. Another property owner claimed the city acts “like a banana republic.”
Council member Chris Wissmann urged business owners within the district to get involved with the organization and try to steer the organization’s attention toward potentially under-served sections of the district. Council member Lance Jack, who owns a business at the south end of the district, agreed that most of the energy of Main Street is steered toward the north end of the district. Both Wissmann and Jack expressed support for shortening the length of the extension.
City Manager Kevin Baity conferred with staff and found that action could be delayed until December without causing problems for the Main Street district. The motion to approve the ordinance was withdrawn and the item will return at a future council meeting.
This is a perfect example of Carbondale’s government making easy things difficult, as Main Street should have been approved without reservation or hesitation. There will always be one or two people opposed to anything. If council proposed a resolution praising sunshine, someone would turn out to speak in favor of rain. Isolated opposition should not halt positive programs.
After withdrawing item 4.5, council moved on to the general business agenda.
Item 5.1 (pdf) commended a city employee for service to the city and passed unanimously and without discussion. The employee in question gave a nice speech after receiving his commendation.
Item 5.2 (pdf) was an ordinance authorizing the City Manager to enter into an economic development agreement with Intertape Polymer and authorizing the Mayor to execute a deed transferring real property. The ordinance transferred land adjacent to the existing Intertape Polymer facility for free and provided a no interest, forgivable loan in the amount of $194,500. The total incentive package is valued at $246,500.
Intertape agreed to increase employment by 37 jobs while maintaining the existing 68 jobs. The loan is for five years and will be forgiven based on employee retention and job creation contained in the agreement. The result is that Intertape operations will be consolidated in Carbondale. The other option is that Intertape would close its plant in Carbondale and consolidate elsewhere. With the total incentive of $246,500, that works out to $6,662.16 per new job.
The ordinance passed unanimously.
People should remember this when they hear the claim that Carbondale is unfriendly to business. Carbondale isn’t unfriendly to business; on the contrary, Carbondale has shown a willingness – even an eagerness – to subsidize business. Carbondale’s residents and businesses do suffer from both over-regulation and poorly designed regulations, but Carbondale’s government is quite friendly to business if “friendly” means “willing to provide subsidies.”
Item 5.3 (pdf), a resolution approving an amendment to the preliminary PUD plan for Liberty Village, was potentially controversial. The resolution allows the construction of a 120 bed nursing home, which will replace the Jackson County Rehab & Care facility in Murphysboro.
The potential controversy related to opposition to the development by homeowners in the area. No controversy emerged at the meeting, however, because the developer met in advance with the neighborhood association in the area and agreed to modify the site plan to address homeowner concerns. The homeowners then withdrew their opposition. The resolution passed unanimously after unanimous approval of an amendment sponsored by council member Don Monty.
The Monty amendment stipulated that the nursing home building not exceed 62,000 square feet, that the development not exceed a 4.2 Land Use Intensity, and that the resolution applies only to the area used for the nursing home while leaving the remainder of the PUD plan unchanged.
I will comment briefly on this. I agree with council members Chris Wissmann, Don Monty, Jane Adams, and Lee Fronabarger in their praise of the process used to approve this development. Instead of mindless NIMBYism and developer intransigence, the neighbors and the developer worked together to reach a win-win outcome. A development was allowed to proceed and neighbors’ concerns were addressed. This is what we want.
I could take issue with the specific solutions the neighbors and the developer settled on (berms are particularly silly, and I’m a bit suspicious of the entire concept of “buffering”), but the specific solutions aren’t the point. This development set a precedent for a useful process and that ought to be followed in the future. If this process becomes standard, our residents might build a “best practices” knowledge base and we might get better solutions.
I should also point out that Mayor Joel Fritzler deserves some credit for this outcome, as he encouraged the developers to work with the neighborhood residents to achieve a positive outcome. I’ve criticized Fritzler when I thought he deserved it, but fairness requires me to praise him when I think he deserves it. In this case, Fritzler deserves praise. He could have written off the concerns expressed by the residents, but he chose to help them reach an agreement with the developer. That is the kind of behavior we want from our mayor.
Item 5.4 (pdf), a resolution approving a special use permit license for Warehouse Liquor’s annual Fall Wine Festival, passed unanimously and without discussion. Council member Lance Jack did not vote, as he owns a business (Fat Patties) that holds a liquor license.
Item 5.5 (pdf), an ordinance establishing the date, time, and place for a Public Hearing on Proposed TIF # 2 (the downtown TIF), passed unanimously. Council member Lance Jack did not vote because he owns a business that is surrounded by, but not included in, the proposed downtown TIF. The Public Hearing will be held at 7:00 p.m. on December 11, 2012 at the city hall/civic center.
Item 5.6 (pdf), an ordinance establishing the date, time, and place for a Public Hearing on Proposed TIF # 3 (the Oakland Avenue TIF), passed unanimously. The Public Hearing will be held at 7:00 p.m. on December 11, 2012 at the city hall/civic center.
You may have noticed that the two public hearings are technically scheduled for the same time. Council member Corene McDaniel noticed the same thing and asked for clarification. City Manager Kevin Baity explained that all public hearings are added to the city council agenda and scheduled for 7:00 p.m. to ensure that anyone who wants to attend arrives on time. The hearings will be held consecutively, not concurrently.
Item 5.7 (pdf), an ordinance amending the Carbondale Revised Code as it relates to catering licenses, passed unanimously after unanimous approval of an amendment suggested by council member Chris Wissmann. Council member Lance Jack did not vote on the ordinance or the amendment because he owns a business that holds a liquor license.
This ordinance allows caterers working events at specific locations on the SIUC campus to apply for a liquor license allowing the sale of beer and wine by the glass. The Wissmann amendment specified that licenses are available for the entire Communications Building and for the the old Glove Factory art gallery.
After approving item 5.7, council moved on to citizen comments and questions. Only two members of the public spoke. Council then moved on to council comments.
Council member Don Monty drew attention to TIF #2 as a way to address some of the concerns mentioned during discussion of the Main Street district. Monty also suggested that the city take a formal position on hydraulic fracking – a suggestion that council members Jack and Wissmann and Mayor Fritzler agreed with. Monty also suggested that the funding request process for community organizations be made more clear this year.
Council adjourned at 9:48 p.m.