City Council decides to not act on all-inclusive sidewalk compliance letter


Grant Tetmeyer/Iowa State Daily

First Ward Representative Gloria Betcher at an Ames City Council meeting June 18.

Amber Mohmand

Ames City Council moved to take action on the Internet Feasibility Plan Study and the relocation of Starbucks and determined the jurisdiction of the all-inclusive sidewalk. 

Mayor John Haila opened the City Council meeting with a tribute to the one year anniversary of the killing of Celia Barquín Arozamena, a successful player for Iowa State’s women’s golf team and a civil engineering student. 

Story County Attorney Jessica Reynolds presented awards to members of the Ames and Iowa State Police Department who were involved with the case. 

Following the tribute, City Council discussed the recent letter from Mark Johnson, the acting division administrator of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), informing Ames City Manager Steve Schainker that the all-inclusive sidewalk is not compliant with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).  

There was a question of whether the jurisdiction fell under federal or local law and City Council voted to take no action about the letter.  

“I don’t think we’re violating the manual,” said City Attorney Mark Lambert. “I don’t think the manual applies to the city streets and I don’t think [FHWA] has jurisdiction and I’m willing to stand by that.” 

Bill Diesslin, Ames community member and associate director for Iowa State’s environmental health and safety, said he believes the FHWA misinterpreted their own manual. 

Assistant City Manager Brian Phillips led the discussion of the Internet Feasibility Plan study, which will evaluate a possible path to accomplish availability, reliability, speed, customer service, cost and net neutrality. Motions to move forward and direct staff to prepare an RFP (request for proposal) for an internet consulting contract with the three-phase plan for the Internet Feasibility Plan was approved.

“Ultimately I want to provide Ames residents with the communications internet infrastructure that can perform excellently for the next 50 years and it is ultimately answerable to the voters,” said City Councilman David Martin, representing the Third Ward. “I think that’s a really important ingredient, [being] answerable to the voters, because it addresses issues that I don’t think are handled naturally by single competition with the existing competitors.” 

Martin said his goal is to look at how the technology behaves and how to increase user privacy and engagement. The study will have three phases: understanding the landscape, preliminary study and gap-filling study with the decision point and pursuit of a long term path concluding the study. 

There was also a motion to request to rezone several businesses for many reasons including redesigning and improving the drive-thru area for the Starbucks located at 327 Lincoln Way.

City Councilwoman Gloria Betcher, representative of the First Ward, and Bronwyn Beatty-Hansen, the city’s at-large representative, said the decision to approve the relocation was difficult due to their previous vote and the uncertainty around this project. 

“This is really problematic for me because I was the only member of the Council who voted not to expand the area for [the company],” Betcher said. “So I can be consistent in my vote and say ‘well I wanted it to be Highway-Oriented Commercial before so I’ll just vote for that.’ […] At this point I can honestly say I’m not sure how I’m going to vote because I feel this tension between my original vote — which would have not made this [Downtown-Gateway Commercial] — and the Council’s will to create the vision of the rezoning.” 

After further discussion, the City Council voted to approve the motion to rezone from Downtown-Gateway Commercial to Highway-Oriented Commercial.

There was also a discussion about the Ames 2040 plan, an 18-month process, includes multiple phases of public participation on issues related to new development, growth and sustaining the Ames community. The City Council discussed the format and priorities of the Ames 2040 Plan and looked at current examples from different cities such as Champaign, Illinois. 

Regarding the Ames 2040 Plan, Ames Community member Mary Richards said it is the responsibility of the City Council to ensure the Ames 2040 Plan includes steps to reduce the environmental impact. 

“You’re in a position to be leaders here so I urge you to please step up to the challenge […] make sure that they know [the environmental impact] is the foundational push,” Richards said. 

The City Council said they will have separate nights to discuss in more detail the priorities of the Ames 2040 Plan.