Special council meeting addresses land use


City Council member Gloria Betcher questions a panel presenting a staff report on e-cigarettes. The report revealed the feasibility of the city enforcing an ordinance regulating e-cigarettes. The ordinance would be similar to the Clean Air Act, which does not cover certain forms of nicotine delivery systems.

Christie Smith

At a special meeting of Ames City Council on Tuesday night, Council members discussed the Land Use Policy Plan update they had last visited during a meeting June 23.

The council asked city staff in June to develop a strategy to address immediate needs for housing in Ames within the next five to 10 years and to work toward a rewrite of the plan by 2020.

Staff determined there is “readily serviceable land,” or land within the city of Ames that is owned by a developer who is likely to develop it. The land available could accommodate up to 1,370 single-family homes without any changes to the current plan.

With record growth at Iowa State, staff estimated the city’s plan for multi-family housing and apartments will be sufficient for another four to eight years.

The city of Ames also has more than 350 acres of land currently available for commercial and industrial growth. If developed, this land could provide potentially 8,000 new jobs in Ames.

Councilwoman Gloria Betcher expressed concern that there would not be sufficient space in Ames for up to 8,000 new employees. Kelly Diekmann, planning and housing director for Ames, agreed the city of Ames itself would not be prepared to support that amount of growth at this time.

Overall, staff found the current plan sufficient to meet commercial and housing needs in Ames but presented six tasks for the city to address in the next two years as part of a first phase to update the plan.

The six tasks include focuses on transportation infrastructure, high-density policies for multi-family housing and utility service plans for expected growth in southwest Ames.

Phase two of the plan update will be a rewrite of the policy, which staff suggests should begin in two years and take two to three years to complete.

Sam Schulte, ex-officio council member from Iowa State, asked, “Do you have a sense of the current demand on multi-family housing? Specifically, was there enough capacity to buffer the growth of 1,200 students over the past year?”

Diekmann said the city is about a year behind in market demand for housing for ISU growth, but the city’s report does not include additional housing provided by the university itself.

“These are good problems to have,” said Councilman Tim Gartin, speaking of the struggle in Ames to accommodate rapid population growth.

The council voted unanimously in favor of staff’s two-phase recommendation to update the Land Use Policy Plan.