Ames City Council rejects expansion survey proposal

Matt Kuhns

After addressing questions about the city’s expansion plans, the Ames City Council at its Tuesday meeting rejected plans for a survey of land owners in proposed growth areas.

At a previous meeting, the council had directed city staff to inventory the amount of available land in areas marked for annexation by the city. Its goal was to determine if enough land would be available to proceed with annexation.

At Tuesday’s meeting, however, the survey’s methodology came into question. The council voted unanimously against conducting the survey.

City staff would conduct the survey by contacting all the land owners in the growth areas and asking whether they would be willing to sell their land.

Steve Schainker, city manager, told the council he recommended not conducting the survey because of doubts about the validity of results.

“The way we pose the question could lead people to different answers,” Schainker said.

Members of the council generally expressed agreement with Schainker’s assessment.

“My feeling is the methodology here won’t give us what we want,” said council member Herman Quirmbach.

Council member Sharon Wirth said any information from the planned survey would not be reliable.

“I’m very opposed to using staff time for this assignment,” she said.

Russ Cross, city council member, was rethinking his stance on the survey.

“I was one of the ones who thought this was a good idea,” he said.

Council member John Parks said he believed the discussion of survey methodology was missing the point, and the real issue was deciding where it would be in the city’s best interests to expand.

“It is our obligation as a city to define how we measure that,” he said.

Parks said the city’s land-use policy called for development north of the city only if “unforeseen constraints” were found to developing the southwest growth area. He said problems such as uncertainty about the availability of university-owned land in the southwest area qualified as such constraints.

Several contractors spoke during the meeting to inform the council of a severe shortage of available lots in Ames, which could put them out of business if annexation plans are not made soon.

They encouraged the council to move ahead with annexation of the northern growth area because development there could begin sooner than the southwest area.

Parks said the land to the north also is made up of fewer separate properties and would be easier to annex.

“I think these are real issues in terms of availability of land,” he said.