City council approves Beach Avenue development, added parking spaces

Matt Kuhns

The Ames City Council has approved a plan to promote development on Beach Avenue, despite resolute opposition from one member.

The Jemfour Urban Revitalization Area, approved by the council at its meeting Tuesday night, will provide a tax break for development in an area across from Stephens Auditorium.

“This is a deteriorating neighborhood,” said Milt Seiser, speaking to the council about his plans to develop that land. “It needs to be turned around.”

Seiser said plans for the now-vacant area involve construction of 31 condominium units. He estimates each unit will sell for about $360,000.

The new development will include underground parking and more parking spaces on the property, though they will be restricted to residents only.

Council member Herman Quirmbach said the plan may force owners of the cars currently parked on that area to seek spaces on the street.

“I’m concerned that this project is going to result in a net increase in street parking,” Quirmbach said.

Council member John Parks defended the plan.

“I think most of these cars will end up in the [Hilton] Coliseum parking lot,” he said, adding that many of the vehicles are probably parked on the Beach Avenue land illegally.

Quirmbach remained unsold on the plan.

“The bottom line is if the goal is to cause a net reduction in street parking, this doesn’t do it.”

Parks said the development’s effect on parking was not the only factor to consider.

“Another goal of the program is to take a blighted area and improve it,” Parks said. “I think it will make a very attractive addition to the city.”

Quirmbach also raised questions about whether tax incentives for this development would be in the city’s best interest.

“The rationale of a tax-break policy is to create value for the general public,” he said.

Based on informal estimates from the city assessor’s office, Quirmbach said the cost of the plan to the city would be more than $5 million in foregone tax revenue.

“We’re giving away more in tax value than the cost of the property itself,” he said.

Parks said the new tax revenues the development would generate would far exceed the cost of the tax abatement.

The first reading of the ordinance establishing the new urban revitalization area was approved 5-1, with Quirmbach opposed.

Seiser requested that the council suspend the rules temporarily and approve the second and third readings Tuesday night.

He said the contractors involved in the development have been waiting for months to learn the plan’s future.

“We need to know now,” Seiser said.

Quirmbach cast the lone vote against suspension of the rules and against the second and third readings of the ordinance, which were approved by all the other members of the council.