801 day fees and towing approved; final tax levy hearing


Jacob Rice

Ames City Council member Steven Schainker listens to a concerned citizen on Jan. 24.

Immediate towing and increased party violation fees will be enforced on  801 day. The Ames City Council approved nearly seven times the normal first-offense fine for nuisance party violations.

Ames Police Chief Geoff Huff said the immediate towing measure would be in effect from “midnight to midnight” on 801 day, Aug. 19. The nuisance party measure would be in effect throughout the weekend, starting at 5 p.m. Aug. 18 and ending at 4 a.m. Aug. 20.

“In the past several years, we’ve had a very unofficial event occurring where many of our students have started drinking at 8 o’clock in the morning,” Huff said. “That’s resulted in large parties, a lot of parking issues [and] a lot of other problems during that time.”

Huff characterized approving the same measures again as a second trial due to poor weather last year.

“Mother Nature helped us out a bit last year because it rained about every 45 minutes or so, and I know that that did lead to a little bit less activity, which is good,” Huff said. “If it’s 85 degrees and sunny, all bets are off.”

According to city documents, in 2022 city staff noticed some reduction in large parties and it towed 32 vehicles, which Huff said was typical with the number of vehicles towed during a snow ordinance.

As it was in 2022, the fine for nuisance party violations is $650 for the first offense and $850 for each subsequent offense. Immediate towing of vehicles will apply for violations regarding alternate side parking, no parking on one side of the street, yellow lines and fire hydrants.

According to city documents, 801 day began when alcohol was prohibited in fraternities and sororities during the week before the start of classes, with the prohibition ending at 8 a.m. the Saturday before classes began.

“Illegally parked vehicles create a lot of problems in that area,” Huff said. “At times, it would have been difficult to get even a police vehicle down some of these streets where these cars were parked on both sides, let alone an ambulance or a fire apparatus.”

Huff said the police department goes door to door to notify residents of the temporary changes and that a nuisance party violation would not be given without an initial warning.

Mayor John Haila said last year was the inaugural year for Iowa State University hosting events on campus, known as Welcome Weekend, during the weekend before school starts.

“The university had a lot of very successful events that probably drew some people away from the unofficial – not well-planned – events,” Huff said.

Tax Levy

The council held its final hearing on the Ames city budget and property tax levy. As previously reported by the Daily, the max levy rate is increasing by 19 cents, and certification was extended to the end of April due to adjusted rollback rates by the Iowa Legislature.

“To only have a 3.6% increase in the inflationary environment we’re experiencing, are you kidding me?” said Ward 2 Rep. Tim Gartin. “This is a miracle.”

City Manager Steve Schainker said the city has been consistent in maintaining the same level of service at the least possible cost.

“We don’t try to fill the bucket up as much as we can, only as much as we need,” Schainker said.

Infill Housing

The council received feedback from city staff regarding their March infill housing workshop. The council approved all seven staff recommendations in city documents 5-1, which direct city staff on drafting standards and receiving public input.

The recommendations:

  • Allow for accessory dwelling units (ADUs) and duplexes to be new construction only, city-wide.
  • Allow properties with ADUs to have only one rental Letter of Compliance (LOC).
  • Treat ADUs as an accessory only, not a new unit within neighborhoods near campus.
  • Allow for ADUs to have a maximum of one bedroom, meaning no dens, office or extra rooms that would qualify as a bedroom.
  • Require one parking space per ADU and require the property overall to comply with total required parking for the home and ADU, meaning three parking spaces.
  • Apply design standards to duplexes for single-family compatibility.
  • Apply standards for ADUs uniformly for all buildings rather than create exceptions uniquely for ADUs.

At-large Rep. Bronwyn Beatty-Hansen said this is a nice gradual start on infill housing.

“We’re not going to see a whole lot of these all of the sudden,” Beatty-Hansen said. “I don’t see any harm in doing it.”

Gartin, who voted nay on the motion, attempted to amend the motion to create a mechanism for public feedback from neighbors on the design of the ADUs but did not receive a second.

“This is really interesting because the bus in the neighborhood 2.0, guess who’s coming to dinner?” Gartin said. “So once again, we’re going to ask neighbors to have their neighborhood impacted without any input, and council, this is on your watch.”

Ward 1 Rep. Gloria Betcher said the council has not heard public input on the issue and this is just giving city staff direction.

“We haven’t had the public input part of this yet, so I don’t know how you can say we’re asking them to do it without public input,” Betcher said, addressing Gartin’s concerns.

Beatty-Hansen said this is not a big concern.

“There are many things a person can do to their property without the approval of their neighbors,” Beatty-Hansen said. “I could build an accessory structure right now as long as I don’t make it habitable.”

Ward 3 Rep. Anita Rollins said the city does not restrict the number of people in a home.

“I also think that we don’t say how many people can live in a particular house,” Rollins said. “If I purchase my home, then my family members can come and stay with me, and my neighbors can’t give any input to that, and I see this as very similar.”

Gartin said he respectfully thinks the council will not receive public input on the measure.

“Once again, council, we talk a good game about public input and respecting neighborhoods, and when we actually have a vote to create a mechanism for affected property owners to have a voice, we’re denying them the opportunity to raise an issue in a ZBA [Zoning Board of Adjustment] setting,” Gartin said. “This is the second one of these within a month; it’s a disturbing trend.”

Additional Measures

The council held the first reading of an ordinance to increase water rates by 8% for bills mailed on or after July 1. City documents showed that in 2022, Ames charged 74% less than other Iowa cities with populations over 10,000.

“As a person who may not be understanding and say, ‘Well gee, you’re collecting all that extra money, why are you doing that?’ Well, the point is that is being used to help pay for improvements, and we’re trying to keep it very simple and very uniform, again like we’re doing our budgeting,” Haila said.

City staff provided an update on the Schainker Plaza on replacing the water runnel with a spray pad based on direction from the Iowa Department of Public Health, which would add $17,000 to the project.

Gartin asked whether the state had anything better to do than investigate a spray pad and runnel in Ames.

“It’s fascinating the level of interest they have in our spray pad in Ames, Iowa. It’s as if we’re building a nuclear plant here,” Gartin said.

The council unanimously approved moving forward as proposed.

A resolution regarding allocating $10,000 for a ribbon-cutting event at the James Herman Banning Ames Municipal Airport in conjunction with Juneteenth was approved 5-1. Gartin dissented and said the renaming process was an “injustice.”

“Hap Westbrook flew B-24s in WWII, spent two years in a POW [prisoner of war] camp, started Hap’s Air Service here in Ames in 1947 [and] spent decades of his life trying to enhance and develop this airport, and I’ve received a tremendous number of emails and feedback from the community that is just baffled by the decision to rename the airport after someone when there wasn’t adequate consideration of Hap,” Gartin said.