OTTUMWA — The first City Council meeting of 2014 took place Tuesday night inside Council Chambers of City Hall.
It was the first meeting for councilmembers Matt Dalbey and Skip Stevens, as well as the first meeting that was overseen by Mayor Tom Lazio. Councilmember Bob Meyers also started his new term after being re-elected.
Dalbey and Stevens were voted on to replace former councilmembers Brian Morgan and Jeremy Weller, while Mayor Lazio defeated former mayor Frank Flanders in the November election.
There was plenty on the agenda for the first meeting of the new year. On the list for consent agenda, public hearings were set for several projects that will affect the city.
The Lagoon Pump Station Improvements Project, Pennsylvania Avenue Reconstruction Project, Hangar Fire Detection System Replacement Project and Contract Three of the 2010 Flood Protection Mitigation Project all have Jan. 21 set as the date for public hearings. The plans, specifications, form of contract and estimated cost for each project will be discussed.
Other recommendations made during the meeting including the adoption of the City of Ottumwa Investment Policy, effective Jan. 1, 2014. It serves as an update to the previous policy, however no significant changes were made to it. The updates made merely make sure the policy meets the compliancy of the state of Iowa.
Perhaps the hottest topic on the agenda was the recommendation to change zoning classification at 335 E. Fourth St. and 215 N. Jefferson St. Currently, the property located there is under the C-1 retail business classification. The owners of the property, however, want to change the classification to C-2 retail business so they can operate a vehicle sale lot on the property. In order for the lot to become a car sales business, the City of Ottumwa has to approve the reclassification from C-1 to C-2.
The reclassification has been met by some resistance from community members who live close to the intersection. According to multiple reports during the public comment portion about the recommendation, the residents do not want to see a car lot on the intersection because it could cause added traffic to one of the busiest intersections in the city. Community members were also concerned about the possibility of the car lot becoming an eye sore on one of the intersections that visitors to the city see most often.
However, under the C-1 classification, the owners of the lot could put in a business that could bring the same amount of traffic as a car lot would. City Planning and Development Director Nick Klimek read a list to the council of the different businesses that could inhabit the property under its current C-1 classification. If the owner of the property wanted, and if the building met the proper standards, they could put a bar, restaurant, childcare facility, bakery or use it residentially, among several other uses, without needing the city’s approval.
According to Klimek, the owner of the property has worked well with city officials to make the car lot work. The lot has been properly paved and there has been a security light put in the lot, and they have also agreed to limit the lot to six cars at a time and have hours of operation set at 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., so as to avoid the high school traffic.
Councilmembers were split on the vote for the item. In order to pass, it needed a four-to-one yes vote, but it only received a three-to-two yes vote, which meant the recommendation failed.
— To see reporter Josh Vardaman's Twitter feed, go to @CourierJosh