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Neighborhood Liquor denied again, budget issues discussed at City Council

Jay Waagmeester
Ames City Council members sit in the council chambers at Ames City Hall during the Dec. 12 meeting.

The Ames City Council brushed up on budget issues with budget season approaching, approved an increase to the Analysis of Social Services Evaluation Team (ASSET) funding and denied Neighborhood Liquor and Smokes, again, for a 12-month liquor license during their meeting Tuesday. 

Neighborhood Liquor and Smokes

A year after its 12-month liquor license renewal application was denied, Neighborhood Liquor and Smokes was denied the same request during the Tuesday City Council meeting.

The request was made by the owner and denied a year ago by the council after the establishment failed compliance checks in March 2021, February 2022 and October 2022. 

Neighborhood failed another compliance check in September of this year.

In November, an administrative law judge affirmed the council’s 2022 ruling, stating the council acted appropriately, “finding that the applicant was not a person of good moral character.”

Tuesday, the council was presented with a renewal application, which was denied at the recommendation of Ames Police Chief Geoff Huff. 

“Given the overwhelming evidence demonstrating a lack of care by the applicant, a ruling from the administrative law judge that the applicant is ‘not a person of good moral character,’ and the continued pattern of compliance check failures, I’m recommending that we deny this application as well,” Huff said. 

Although the council and the administrative law judge denied the first application, Neighborhood can appeal to the director of the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division and then appeal to district court. 

City documents also had reports from citizens, mostly parents, who have complained the liquor and smoke store sold to underage buyers, including those under the age of 18. 

The store can continue to operate until all appeals options have been exhausted. 

No store employee or owner was present at the meeting to speak on the matter, though Huff said store owners were aware the item was on the agenda. 

The penalty for four failed compliance checks is revocation of the store’s license. However, the fourth failed compliance check is yet to be adjudicated. If the employee is found guilty in the Dec. 27 trial for the fourth failed compliance check, the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division will take action on the revocation. 


Corey Goodenow, finance director for the city, reported on budget issues facing the city, including economic conditions of the city, changes to Iowa property taxes, utilities and more. 

According to city documents, the median house listing price in Ames in November is $209 per square foot, compared to the all-time high of $221 per square foot in February. 

The impacts on city income as a result of Iowa property tax code changes during the 2023 state legislative session, including military property tax exemptions being funded by the city rather than the state. 

Additionally, those ages 65 and older, will receive taxable valuation deductions of $3,250 in 2024/2025 and by 2025/2026 will exempt $6,500 in taxable valuations for people in that age range, resulting in a lower tax rate paid by those 65 and older. 

The military and 65 and older changes in income will reduce city income by up to $150,000 in fiscal year 2024/2025 and up to $250,000 in each year following, the city estimates. 


Ames City Staff are anticipating ASSET not to fund Alternative Response for Community Health (ARCH), which will require funding the program separately during the budget process to keep it running. 

The council voted to increase ASSET funding by 5% for the coming budget. ASSET requested a 24.4% increase, which would have resulted in a nearly half-million increase from FY 2023/24. The approved 5% increase increased the $1.83 million budget in the previous fiscal year by $91,647 to a total of $1.92 million. 

In FY 2023/24, the City of Ames paid $1.82 million into ASSET, while Story County paid $1.75 million, United Way of Story County paid $1.15 million and Iowa State Student Government paid $208,541 via the student activity fee. ASSET’s 2023/2024 budget totaled more than $5 million. 

Short term housing task force recommendations

A task force organized by the Ames Economic Development Commission presented its findings, which included findings that the city offers a lack of incentives to build new homes. 

The task force suggested more incentives, including the city offering to pay sewage costs for developments rather than developers, a program to incentivize the desired size and price of residential units when a foundation is completed. 

They also found land costs, a limited number of developers and limited housing resources focused on housing of all types as barriers in creating housing in Ames. 

The top three most critical housing needs in Ames, according to the task force rank as follows:

1) Owner-Occupied housing below $250,000 

2) Owner-Occupied housing ranging from $251,000 to $350,000 

3) Market rate rental housing 

The task force suggested a tax abatement program to target the building of certain types of homes, according to the City Council’s preferences. 

“Usually we use incentives and gains for a targeted purpose. We don’t just blindly offer them out just to see what works or what is of interest of the city,” said Kelly Diekmann, director of planning and housing. 

Diekmann also said abatements could be explored to incentivize certain focuses such as rental housing, ownership housing or sustainability goals. 

Ward 2 Rep. Tim Gartin said he is in support of abatements, but said people may be concerned the benefit may not show a clear public benefit to all homeowners. 

“We’ve got to do something different than what we’re doing. [The] status quo is not working,” Gartin said of the efforts to increase housing options in Ames. 

Rental housing code amendment

The council heard the first reading of amendments being proposed to rental housing code, zoning ordinances and historic preservation codes in preparation for accessory dwelling units (ADUs). 

Proposed amendments are “middle of the road” standards, according to the Ames City Manager Steve Schainker, who also stated there will be a “slow and gradual approach of homeowners building accessory dwelling units.”

Amendments include:

  • ADUs being allowed on single-family residential lots that are the primary residence of the property owner, and can have no more than two units. The owner can live in the single-family residence or the ADU. 
  • ADUs will have no more than one bedroom and must have cooking, sanitation and sleeping areas.
  • ADUs must have one parking space and a paved sidewalk to the home or parking area. 
  • ADUs must sit on permanent foundations and cannot be trailers or RVs

Accessory buildings may be converted to be accessory dwelling units, as long as they comply with code. Due to the potential of conversion, the maximum for an ADU is 900 square feet.

Current Ward 1 Rep. and Ward 3 Rep.-elect Gloria Betcher said some of her constituents were concerned about the size being too big for one bedroom units. 

Additional measures

The City of Ames received the distinguished budget presentation award from the Government Finance Officers Association. Mayor John Haila presented a proclamation commemorating the award at the beginning of the meeting. 

Haila also signed a proclamation recognizing Saturday, Dec. 16 Wreaths across America Day in Ames. The event is organized by the Ames American Legion Riders, who place wreaths on the graves of those who served in the military as their name is said out loud at the Ames municipal cemetery. 

The Fitch Family Indoor Aquatic Center council questions follow-up agenda item was tabled until the next meeting.

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