Monday, February 9, 2015

What you may not know: Week of February 9

A committee week kicks off this afternoon for the Appleton Common Council, and here are three items I'll be keeping an eye on:

City Plan Commission, Monday, 4 pm

Back in November I submitted a resolution calling for the city to review the zoning code related to gas station canopies, in light of a recent ruling from the Board of Zoning Appeals that implied a lack of clarity in the language. That resolution passed the council late last year and the resulting proposed changes will come before the City Plan Commission for action tonight.

In my opinion the changes effectively clarify the zoning code to reflect what the accepted understanding of the code has been for some time. Under the amended code, our definition of canopies include a specific example involving gas station canopies that should clear up some confusion. Our zoning code currently bans exterior lighting on canopies, and would continue to do so.

Community and Economic Development Committee, Monday, 5 pm

An item likely to have significant local interest in the 13th district is on the Community and Economic Development Committee's agenda for Monday, as they'll hear a request to use Neighborhood Grant money to expand the playground at Huntley Elementary School.

As the northeast side of the city has grown in recent years, so has enrollment at Huntley. The school has 30% more students than it did in 2006, and its existing playground equipment is inadequate to meet those needs. The PTO is working to raise $100,000 to make major additions to the facility, and has requested $70,000 of the city's available $120,000 in grant money to put towards this effort.

It's also worth noting that the school isn't the only user of this playground. The area around Huntley isn't served very well by our existing park system, with residents located a pretty significant distance from both Erb and Peabody Parks and having to cross Northland Avenue to get to Memorial Park. Our own Parks and Rec department uses the playground at Huntley for the neighborhood's summer recreation programming, and the YMCA also uses it for their before and after school programming in the area.

As such, I think the improved playground at Huntley represents a very real opportunity to add value to the community with our (largely federally funded) grant money. That's exactly what this program is for.

Municipal Services, Tuesday, 5:30 pm

By now you may have heard that a draft of the results from the city's long-awaited parking study is in, and it will appear as an information item when the Municipal Services Committee meets on Tuesday night. Any and all recommendations from this study will still have to be approved by the council before they can take effect, but the report calls for the following:

  • A partnership between the city and the YMCA to construct a new, larger parking ramp on the site of the current Soldiers Square ramp. The proposed ramp would be multi-use, with retail space on the ground level and possibly apartments above the ramp.
  • Changing the existing "pay to enter" parking ramp procedure to a system where users pay when departing and are charged based on the amount of time spent in the ramp.
  • Expanding the ability to accept credit cards at parking meters and make payments to meters using a mobile device.
  • Eliminating meter enforcement after 6 pm. The meters are currently enforced until 9 pm Monday-Saturday.
Again, it's worth repeating that we're still in the very early stages of making any changes to downtown parking and all 15 of the consultant's recommendations are just that: recommendations. However, this report and the conversations it generates will go a long way towards determining how we handle this issue in the future.

You can see agendas for all of this week's meetings and the full schedule at the city's Legistar page.

Keeping you informed on issues that may impact you around the city is one of my primary goals as an alderman. Making the council's activity as accessible as possible to as many people as are interested is part of my goal to make it easier for more people to get involved with issues that matter to them.

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