Monday, September 26, 2016

What you may not know: Week of September 26

It's a busy committee week for the Appleton Common Council, and here are some of the items of interest:

Parks and Recreation, Monday, 6 pm

On Monday evening the Parks and Recreation Committee will be asked to make a recommendation on a request to make modifications to the city's Recreation Program Fee Waiver Policy. The goal of the policy is to ensure that all of the city's children have access to recreation programs and activities, including our two pools, regardless of household income.

The updated policy, however, contains some language I find somewhat troubling in the definition of "family." Under the updated policy, a child would be required to live at an address greater than 50% of the time to be eligible for "family" benefits. As someone who grew up with divorced parents, I have experience leading to both philosophical and practical issues regarding this suggested policy.

I'm hopeful that the committee will reconsider these proposed changes.

Municipal Services, Tuesday, 6:30 pm

In my last two updates (last week and two weeks ago) I've mentioned a dozen streets coming up for reconstruction in 2018 that were coming up for design approval. Ten of those 12 streets were approved at council last week but two, Mary Street and Catherine Street, were referred back to committee for further discussion around proposed compromises.

Both of these streets are in an older portion of the city where we come across a frequent issue: The trees planted along the terrace are large enough and have deep and wide enough root structures that it's very difficult to reconstruct the existing street at its current width without having to remove them. This creates a difficult choice, as saving the trees usually means narrowing the streets and creating issues related to parking and access.

Community and Economic Development, Wednesday, 5 pm

In my last two updates I've also mentioned the city's ongoing Community Development Block Grant process, which this year includes a city staff request to allocate $200,000 for land acquisition for a "small house community."

We first heard about this request two weeks ago, and at council last week I referred it back to committee for further discussion related to the following questions:

  • Staff has chosen to call these proposed homes "small" instead of "tiny," but I'd like more clarity on what that means in terms of square footage.
  • Currently, the city's zoning code does not allow new construction houses to be less than 900 square feet. At committee two weeks ago I received conflicting answers regarding what would need to be done to allow for a project involving smaller homes.
  • The city's portion of this project is slated for property acquisition, but I have yet to hear if that means we'll be owning the properties long term, donating them or selling them. If we're selling them, I do not know where the proceeds would go.
  • The Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), who oversees these grants, requires that projects meet several criteria to ensure they're helping low-to-moderate income people. I do not know what, if any, steps we can take or plan on taking to ensure these properties end up with those that need help.
I'm looking forward to a robust continued conversation on this topic.

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. Good governance happens in the open, and I remain committed to raising awareness on the issues coming before us.

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