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First reading of the Ames property maintenance code approved 4-1

Cleo Westin
Ames resident Dylan Kline demonstrates to the Ames City Council what a ten-foot vegetation clearance would look like using measuring tape.

The Ames City Council approved the first reading of the property maintenance code 4-1, with Ward 2 Rep. Tim Gartin voting nay and At-Large Rep. Amber Corrieri absent and will be entered into the Ames City Code after two more readings.

Several approved changes were made to the first reading that will be reflected in the second reading, but public comment will only be allowed for the second or third reading if an exception is made.

Five Ames residents spoke during the public forum period, including sections of the code regarding vegetation height over sidewalks, turf grass height limitations and the definition of a weed.

In discussing the difference between an eight-foot and ten-foot vegetation clearance over sidewalks, Dylan Kline brought a tape measure to show the lengths the council was going toward.

“It would really be a detriment to the City of Ames community and many parts of the community to cut trees up to ten feet above the sidewalk,” Kline said.

The Council opted to put the ten-foot clearance in the first reading after learning that projects which receive funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation must maintain a ten-foot clearance for up to 20 years after construction.

In recent meetings, Gartin has questioned why the federal government cares about vegetation in Ames and stated during the June 27 meeting that he was “fighting too hard” for the eight-foot clearance. However, Gartin had unanimous support in his motion Tuesday for Ames City staff to rewrite the proposal to allow for an eight-foot clearance except for projects that receive state or federal funding and require a ten-foot clearance.
“The goal of this is to segregate the vast parts of our community that don’t need a ten-foot limitation and isolate it to those areas that [are] beyond our control,” Gartin said. “Again, I am perplexed that the federal government would have an issue with the height of our sidewalk vegetation in Ames, Iowa.”

Regarding where RVs can be parked on private property, Ward 1 Rep. Gloria Betcher motioned to remove language prohibiting parking an RV in the front yard portion of a driveway.

“I keep coming back to why we want to force people to park their recreational vehicles or travel trailers on the street instead of on an approved parking place, in other words, on their driveway,” Betcher said.

Gartin said the motion was “going the exact opposite direction” of what the council should decide.

“This motion, respectfully, blows the door open, and there are no limitations on parking whatever you want in the front of the house,” Gartin said. “This is the most absurd motion I’ve heard in a long time because it’s going to further turn neighborhoods into RV parks; you can’t make this stuff up.”

At-Large Rep. Bronwyn Beatty-Hansen said the motion intends to keep parked RVs off public streets.

“The way we’re currently restricting it, we’re incentivizing them to park that RV on the street,” Beatty-Hansen said.

Gartin also said that if someone built a “stick structure” on their property, it would have to follow building codes, but an RV does not because it has wheels.

“People make significant investments in their home, and they get up the next morning, and they find their neighbor has parked this huge RV next to their property,” Gartin said. “The only people that think that RV looks beautiful are the people that own the RV.”

Betcher responded that the council was trying to remove aesthetic concerns and focus on safety concerns, to which Gartin replied, “You’re darn right it’s an aesthetic concern.”

“People are not going to be happy with this, so let’s go ahead and vote on this [and if] I get voted down, that’s fine,” Gartin said. “But this is one of the most bizarre motions I’ve ever heard in 10 years.”

Gartin did not gain the council’s support as Betcher’s motion passed 4-1, although Mayor John Haila said after the vote that he agreed with Gartin.

As also previously reported by the Daily, Beatty-Hansen indicated support for removing language that prohibits turf grasses over 12 inches and motioned to do so Tuesday, but it failed after only receiving support from Ward 4 Rep. Rachel Junck.

Additionally, Ward 3 Rep. Anita Rollins motion for Ames City staff to include exceptions for branches that can be broken down and bundled or put into a yard waste bag regarding yard waste remaining on the exterior of a property for more than seven days in the second reading was unanimously approved.


After tabling a traffic study about the 190th Street corridor during their last meeting, the Ames Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Transportation Policy Committee voted to accept the study 7-1, with Gilbert Mayor Jonathan Popp voting against it.

Popp was absent from the meeting where the study was tabled, but according to previous reporting from the Daily, he “strongly encouraged” the tabling because “it was on short notice.”

The move in their prior meeting became the first tabling of any measure in the committee’s 20-year existence and only the second vote that was not unanimous approval.

On Tuesday, the committee added one more to that tally after Popp said that safety should be included in recommendations made to the committee.

“Safety needs to be much higher on the evaluation list when we look at A versus B versus C,” Popp said. “If we approve this, I think we’re accepting [this] data that’s been created from the report, and I don’t think we can overlook that.”

Es Tas eight-month liquor license approved

The council unanimously approved an eight-month liquor license for Es Tas after denying their 12-month license renewal in July following the recommendation from Ames City staff.

Ames Police Chief Geoff Huff again reminded the council of the 60 on-premise underage violations and a failed “50/50 status” compliance check but recommended the approval of an eight-month license.

Huff said Es Tas must maintain new measures put in place since the denial, like random self-imposed “sting” operations and confiscating fake IDs, or the liquor license issue would be brought back to the council.

Additional Measures

A memorandum of understanding with Iowa State University for a permanent traffic signal at the State Avenue and Mortensen Road intersection was approved as part of the consent agenda. The project will cost $360,000 and Iowa State and Ames will split the cost evenly.

The council unanimously endorsed an Iowa Economic Development Authority application for financial assistance for 3M to bring 25 “high-quality” jobs, including engineer, operator and maintenance positions to their Ames facility.

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  • M

    Melissia Stanley | Aug 9, 2023 at 6:23 pm

    This is what you people spend our funds discussing and conducting research on?! Whether people should have the right to park stuff they’ve bought on their own property?!! You’re view of what is within your purview is greatly distorted and disturbing! Stay out of people’s personal spaces and stop infringing on their rights. Local government is overstepping its intended authorities.

  • J

    Joan Chamberlin | Aug 9, 2023 at 3:18 pm

    Thanks to Cleo Westin for this detailed report.