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Council addresses downtown facades, purchases land for park

Jacob Rice
Ward 3 Rep. Anita Rollins listens to a presentation on Jan. 24.

The Ames City Council received a report which discussed a referral request regarding tax abatement incentives from the Ames Economic Development for downtown Ames in November 2022, to which the council directed staff to seek public input on the matter.

The council moved to direct staff to return to them with language that expands the opportunity for tax abatement to interior and exterior projects with limiting guidelines, proposals for how to integrate energy efficiency for approved renovations and add residential facades and renovations to eligible uses.

“I think in general, you can see the comments about the façade program […] vary greatly from ‘I want maintenance paid for,’ to ‘Why don’t you just pay to do what I want to do for my building indeed of what has been traditionally done on Main Street?’” said Kelly Diekmann, planning and housing director for the city.

Diekmann added that he believes most Ames business owners are not even aware of the increase in funding for the facade program, adding that no one has taken advantage of the newly accessible funds.

Ward 1 Rep. Gloria Betcher said she would be in favor of looking at two types of grants to separate the facade grant from funds that could go toward maintaining the structural integrity of buildings, adding that she “is not in favor of incenting demolition of historic structures.”

“Honestly, some of the facade improvements [are] nice, but they might look [like] lipstick on a pig when your building has significant structural issues, and we aren’t really helping with those significant structural issues while we’re saying, ‘Gosh, it would look really beautiful if you made these facade improvements,’” Betcher said.

Ward 2 Rep. Tim Gartin said his position has shifted on the matter, adding that he is in favor of exploring any avenues to incentivize energy-efficient improvements to buildings. Gartin also expressed concern about the cost to make improvements to old buildings.

“There may be some hard decisions, but sometimes these are really really expensive, and so to what degree are we going to allocate very large amounts of money to […] one project?” Gartin said. “As much as we want to save a particular building, there might have to be other sources of funds to provide for the structural integrity of the building. It may not be us.”

Ward 4 Rep. Rachel Junck echoed sentiments similar to Betcher’s.

“I’m sort of interested in decoupling the program as well, kind of going the direction of two separate programs: having a facade program but then another program we can use for other things too,” Junck said. “I think the facade grant has served its purpose to this point, but I think it makes sense to have two separate ones going forward.”

Mayor of Ames John Haila said the goal of the grants is to maintain the beauty of downtown, which Diekmann emphasized.

“[Maintaining downtown] was clear in the comments,” Diekmann said. “Everybody’s like […] ‘The historic character is critical.’ We’re not trying to redevelop Big R downtown; we’re trying to reinvest in downtown. Sometimes that may mean a new building, but in general it’s about reinvesting.”

West Ames Park

The council moved to go forward with their purchase of 77.85 acres of land located at 5658 Ontario St. for a community park for roughly $1.1 million.

Haila said the city would not be paying the entirety of the price alone, to which Keith Abraham, the director of parks and recreation for the city, shed further light on.

“We’ve been awarded two grants: one resource enhancement program grant from the DNR that’s for $200,000, and we also submitted a grant for the Land and Water Conservation Fund Grant and were awarded $175,000,” Abraham said.

Following the application of the grants, the city is left to pay $771,474 from the Park Development Fund, which sits at roughly $1.3 million prior to the purchase of the land.

City documents state that the purchase of the land is only the first step in the plan’s development. Prior to the parks opening, the city will:

  • Solicit buyers to move the existing house off the property. Should a buyer not be found, the house will be demolished.
  • Solicit buyers for the wood on the barn and corn crib on the property and then demolish what remains.
  • Per council direction, conduct further inspection of the milk house building and garage on the property, and if feasible, incorporate them into the final park design.
  • Remove hazardous trees, unwanted fencing and invasive species.
  • Manage the prairie areas with burning and mowing as needed.
  • Mow paths throughout the property so residents can enjoy the park until it is fully developed.

Additional Measures

Paving requirement for Cedar Lane

The council moved to table a request from the owners of the Ansley subdivision regarding the paving of roughly 700 feet of Cedar Lane with the intention to return the issue to the council in September when the owners of the subdivision, Steve Burgason and Anne Burgason, are able to be before the Council.

In accordance with city code, the subdivision is required to pave roughly 700 feet of Cedar Lane adjacent to their development. According to Diekmann, in light of the cost of development, the Burgasons had asked the city to reconsider the developer’s requirement to pay half of the cost, with the other half being the responsibility of Iowa State University.

Zoning text amendment

The council moved to exempt electric vehicle charging equipment from required city landscape calculations for new or previously developed sites.

Prior to the passing of this motion, Ames Ford Lincoln’s implementation of approved charging equipment violated the city’s required landscaping coverage percentage due to the installation of transformers and the paved pads required for electric vehicle charging. The motion made by the city only impacts commercial and industrial developments.

Speculative Building Amendment

The council moved to amend their North Dayton Avenue Industrial Park Development Agreement, changing the deadline of the building’s construction to May 1, 2024.

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  • R

    Renate Dellmann | Aug 23, 2023 at 7:43 am

    so pleased to get city news in the Daily*-*
    even more so since the Tribune has stopped being a local paper
    Thank you