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Initial property maintenance code approval postponed

Ward 1 Rep. Gloria Betcher, Ward 2 Rep. Tim Gartin, Ward 3 Rep. Anita Rollins and City Manager Steve Schainker during the regular Ames City Council meeting May 10.

In an effort to allow further public input, the Ames City Council unanimously approved a motion that extended the hearing on the initial approval of the property maintenance code to their next regular meeting on Aug. 8.

Prior to any public comment Tuesday, At-Large Rep. Bronwyn Beatty-Hansen had five motions amending the ordinance unanimously approved all regarding nuisances relating to structures.

Those changes included removing language about consistent materials and consistent coloration for fencing, roofs and exterior walls and amended it to materials appropriate for the application.

“That is a good way to get at the intent here where you mean roofing in place of roofing, fencing in place of fencing, but we’re not saying consistent so that there’s no misconception about it having to be a literally consistent material,” Beatty-Hansen said.

Another motion by Beatty-Hansen, to change language prohibiting weeds over 12 inches tall and any noxious weeds or those deemed invasive by the Ames City Forester, was approved 4-2.

“With our definition of weed here it says not intentionally planted,” Beatty-Hansen said. “The enforcement of that is going to be tricky too I got to imagine. You go up to a place and you’re like ‘Oh you got a weed there’ and they’re like ‘I put that there.’”

Ward 2 Rep. Tim Gartin, who voted nay, asked the council if this is what they want to be doing.

“This is at some point getting to just being silly and I don’t know if it’s the hour of the night but for turf grasses we’ll have a limit there at 12 inches but if there’s weeds it could be 2 feet tall and we don’t care as long as they’re not noxious weeds,” Gartin said.

Beatty-Hansen voiced support for also removing language that prohibits turf grass over 12 inches but said she did not motion for it Tuesday because she thought there was not enough support on the council.

Seven people spoke to the council about their concerns regarding the code’s terminology, equability and intent after waiting in the council chambers for over three hours.

Sharon Stewart said that council should review specific definitions because while building Lockwood Cafe she went before an appeals board that “could all agree” a certain part of the Ames Municipal Code did not relate to a certain “hazard,” but enforced it anyway.

“They felt so sure that they had to stick to the code that the intention was lost,” Stewart said. “The idea that we uphold things on intention alone is dangerous and I felt that first hand.”

Following the input, the council unanimously approved a motion from Ward 4 Rep. Rachel Junck, removing “to preserve the value of property owned by these citizens” from the purpose. Then At-Large Rep. Amber Correri’s motion for city staff to give the council options in the next meeting on replacing that language with options, like integrity of the property or fit for occupancy, was unanimously approved.

Ward 3 Rep. Anita Rollins’ motion to change fines from $500 on the first violation and $750 for each subsequent violation to $50 on the first violation and $100 for each subsequent violation, was also unanimously approved.

Lastly, Ward 1 Rep. Gloria Betcher motioned for language to be brought to the council in the next meeting regarding dead trees endangering neighboring properties, which was also unanimously approved.

Betcher, who served as Mayor Pro Tem in Mayor John Haila’s absence, said that those who wish to speak during the public comment about the code may only do so once. That means the seven people who spoke on the matter Tuesday are unable to do so again on Aug. 8.

Es Tas Liquor License

The Ames City Council unanimously voted to deny Es Tas a renewed 12-month liquor license following Ames Police Chief Geoff Huff’s recommendation.

Huff said that Es Tas passed compliance checks in March and May of this year, but has cited 60 individuals for being on-premises while being underage.

According to city documents, in March, Es Tas was granted “50/50 status” by the Ames Police Department which Es Tas’ management decided to only permit those over 21 to enter after 3 p.m. on weekends and 5 p.m. on weeknights.

Huff told the council that on June 30 the police department conducted a compliance check in which a minor was allowed to stay past the permitted time and also was served an alcoholic beverage after showing the bartender an ID that showed they were underage.

“I think part of the issue right now is Es Tas has a reputation for having a lot of minors in the bar,” Huff said. “That’s where everybody is going right now and that’s just exacerbating the problem.”

Luke Craven, an attorney representing Es Tas, said the Ames Police Department failed to notify the bar about the 60 citations until “a few weeks ago” and that Es Tas has been in Ames for 20 years without incident.

“Basically, what we’re looking at here is a zero tolerance policy where a 20 year business is now potentially facing shutdown because of one violation,” Craven said.

City documents state that Ames Police reported on several occasions that they were unable to find a manager on the premises to discuss a violation.

After the denial Gartin said that in his ten years on the council he has ever heard blame placed on Ames Police for failure to notify the bar about citations and that, as a business in operation for 20 years, they should “know the ropes by now.”

Es Tas was encouraged to apply for an 8-month license before their current license expires at the end of August.

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    Alissa Beary | Jul 26, 2023 at 11:38 am

    Es Tas is not known to be “an underage bar.” AJs, Cactus, and BnC are wildly known throughout campus to be the bars to go to if you’re a minor. Law enforcement have to be aware of this, but continue to look the other direction for many puzzling reasonings.