Sunday, August 5, 2018

What you may not know: Week of August 6

The Appleton Common Council is back to work on a normal committee week this week, although most of the notable meetings will take place on Monday.

Before I get started, please note that all of these committee meeting times are subject to change if the preceding meeting goes long. Meetings will not start before the listed time, but may be pushed back if the previous meeting continues for over an hour. Given the topics at hand, it's a strong possibility that staying on schedule will be a challenge this week.

Municipal Services Committee, Monday, 4:30 pm

In last week's update I mentioned a resolution introduced by Alderman Bill Siebers calling for the city to change the fine for parking in the street during times where parking is banned due to a snow emergency. That item was on our council agenda last week but was referred back to the Municipal Services Committee and appears on their agenda once again.

This committee has previously opted to recommend addressing this issue by raising the fine from $25 to $100 per offense. As I noted last week, that increase would establish our fine for this offense as the highest among comparable municipalities.

The more I've thought about this issue the more I've come to see it as an enforcement issue, not a punishment issue. I have yet to see any compelling evidence that raising the fine will improve compliance, and would support efforts to try to find another way to solve this issue.

Finance Committee, Monday, 5:30 pm

This week the Finance Committee will be asked to make another recommendation on a step forward in efforts to build a new Appleton Public Library as part of a mixed use development on the site of the Soldiers Square parking ramp downtown.

In April of this year the city council and library board voted to support the city's efforts to include the library's needs as identified in a mixed use development with Commercial Horizons. The 2018 city budget allocated $500,000 in funding for the library project, and this week the Finance Committee will be asked to recommend awarding $347,000 of that allocation to Commercial Horizons for the following project elements:

  • Site development and building coordination for the new library.
  • Programming and public outreach for the new library.
  • Library schematic design.
  • Site development for a temporary parking solution following the demolition of the Soldiers Square ramp.
  • Topographic and schematic parking lot layouts for temporary parking.
Some of this is a continuation of work already taking place. There is an Open House with the OPN Architects scheduled for Tuesday, August 14 from 6-7:30 pm for interested parties to drop by and share their opinion. Anyone interested in being part of a focus group with the architects can also sign up at apl.org/focusgroups

In the meantime, continuing the process with Commercial Horizons will hopefully give us more information to consider in our 2019 budget discussions.

Committee of the Whole, Monday, 6:30 pm

Again, in last week's update I noted that our August 1 council meeting included an agenda item calling for us to act on a proposed amendment to the U.S. Venture Development Agreement. Last week council met for about an hour and a half in closed session to discuss negotiations related to the amendment, then later opted to refer the item back to its committees of jurisdiction for further discussion. The amendment had been sent directly to council previously, so this will be the first committee meeting to discuss this action item. Because the item is technically within the jurisdiction of the Finance, Municipal Services and Community and Economic Development committees, council will come together as a Committee of the Whole to take it up.

Our previous conversations on this topic have been in closed session, so I'm reluctant to discuss any of the finer points of the negotiation at this juncture. Suffice it to say that I expect a spirited discussion on the proposed amendment on Monday night. I'll also note once again that while this project does require a significant investment, it has been and continues to be the city's priority to keep the expenses contained within the appropriate Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district to prevent the taxpayers from bearing any of the burden. The costs are being borrowed by the TIF district and are expected to be repaid by increased revenue due to the related increase in property values.

You can see all of this week's meeting agendas 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.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

What you may not know: Week of July 30

The Appleton Common Council will hold its regularly scheduled full council meeting on Wednesday, August 1. Items on the agenda include the following:

Snow Emergency Parking

Several months ago Alderman Bill Siebers submitted a resolution in response to an issue he has witnessed in the city's first district, where cars parked on the street during snow emergencies have to be plowed around and create issues for both the usability of the street and available on-street parking in front of businesses. The current fine for parking on the street while on-street parking is banned is $25, the same as a ticket for being parked on the street without authorization overnight on any other night.

Last week the Municipal Services Committee amended Alderman Siebers' resolution and recommended the city establish a fine of $100 for leaving a vehicle on the street during a snow emergency. This would put us at the high end of a list of comparable municipalities reviewed at the meeting.

While I appreciate the issue Alderman Siebers is trying to address, I would be more inclined to support a lesser increase that puts us in line with our neighbors instead of above most of them.

Refuse Cart Fees

As I noted in my last update, the Municipal Services committee was recently asked to consider a staff recommendation that would make a slight increase to the city's refuse cart fees to address a growing shortfall in the Sanitation Fund's revenues. The Sanitation Fund has been operating at a slight deficit in recent years and in 2019 it's fund balance is expected to fall below 25% of its operating budget, a benchmark that typically triggers some kind of adjustment. Under the current fee structure the fund balance would be completely depleted by 2022.

The staff proposal called for an across the board increase of fees as follows:

  • Users with 30 gallon refuse carts would pay $.50 per week, up from $0.
  • Users with 60 gallon refuse carts would pay $1 per week, up from $.50.
  • Users with 90 gallon refuse carts would pay $1.50 per week, up from $1.30.
  • Users with multiple carts would see their rates increase along a range from $1.20 to $1.70 per week.
The Municipal Services Committee opted to amend that recommendation to leave the smallest cart free, but recommended adopting all of the remaining changes. If approved, this change is projected to keep the Sanitation Fund on solid financial footing through 2022.

Parking Rate Increases

Last week the Municipal Services Committee also voted to recommend approval of the following rate increases for the city's parking utility:
  • Parking meters north of Washington Street would be increased from $.20/hour to $.25/hour.
  • All other parking meters would be increased from $.75/hour to $1/hour.
  • Parking ramp fees of $1 for less than two hours would be eliminated and replaced by a $2 fee for parking less than three hours.
These three changes are projected to raise about $150,000 in annual revenue to be used to help pay for updated ramp lighting, elevator and parking meter replacements as well as credit card fees and software support.

U.S. Venture Agreement

The city and U.S. Venture continue to work together on the development of a new headquarters for U.S. Venture downtown, but plans hit a snag recently when private developers were unable to secure financing for the parking element of the project. 

This week the Common Council will be asked to approve an amended agreement to keep the project moving forward. The amended agreement calls for the city to take responsibility for the construction of the parking structure in exchange for guarantees from US Venture to purchase more spaces within the new structure and an increase in their guaranteed minimum value of the property upon completion of the project.

It's worth noting once again that while this project does require a significant investment, it has been and continues to be the city's priority to keep the expenses contained within the appropriate Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district to prevent the taxpayers from bearing any of the burden. The costs are being borrowed by the TIF district and are expected to be repaid by increased revenue due to the related increase in property values.

In an effort to keep this project moving council will be asked to take this item up on Wednesday despite the fact that it has not been to any committees. As such, I expect extended discussion and questions before we take action, if we choose to take action this week at all.

You can see all of this week's meeting agendas 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.






Monday, July 9, 2018

What you may not know: Week of July 9

The Appleton Common Council is back from our Fourth of July break and we've got a busy committee week ahead. Most of the notable meetings this week all occur on Monday:

Central Equipment Agency Review Committee, Monday, 4 pm

The 2019 budget process is well underway for city departments, with first drafts of budget requests and capital project requests due to the Mayor's office today. This afternoon the Central Equipment Agency's Review Committee will meet with an agenda including many of those requests as part of the budget process.

The CEA is the arm of the city that owns and maintains most of the city's vehicles used across all departments. The departments get their vehicles through the CEA, which collects funds from the departments for their maintenance and estimated eventual replacement costs. The committee that oversees this process is made up of two alderpersons (Alderman Chris Croatt and I) and two department heads (Finance Director Tony Saucerman and Department of Public Works Director Paula Vandehey).

Today that committee is expected to make a recommendation on vehicle purchases requested as part of the 2019 budget. That list includes over $3.3 million in acquisitions, including a new fire truck at an estimated $676,000, 18 new vehicles for the Police Department and five new pieces of equipment with a value of over $200,000 each for the Street Department. Additionally, the 2019 plan calls for over $2.5 million in equipment due for replacement to be retained for another year.

Because of the way the CEA is budgeted, the vast majority of these expenses will have no impact on property taxes: The departments have paid into CEA annually over the years to establish a fund to use to finance the replacement of their vehicles and equipment.

Municipal Services Committee, Monday, 4:30 pm

The Municipal Services Committee has a packed agenda for Monday with a presentation, several street design hearings, two scheduled votes on final street designs and proposed fee changes for refuse carts and parking.

Starting in January of 2019 staff is asking council to approve our first sanitation service fee in four years: The cost difference will depend on the size of a resident's garbage can but will be between $.20 and $.50 per week for most households.

Memos attached to this week's agenda explain the change a bit: The amount of money Sanitation receives via property taxes has remained flat since 2015, and the fund balance for the Sanitation Fund's capital reserve will fall below 25% of annual expenses in 2019 unless some action is taken. Additionally, the city anticipates needing to spend $600,000 in the coming years to replace over 12,000 garbage cans that are over 25 years old.

Additionally, data attached to the agenda shows that, for most customers, Appleton's sanitation fees will remain below the rates charged by some of our neighbors (including Grand Chute and Little Chute) and we continue to conduct Bulk Item Collection much more frequently than any municipality in the area.

There are, as of this writing, fewer details available on possible parking rate increases for 2019. The item is included on the agenda for discussion but there are no attachments or memos on staff recommendations.

Finance Committee, Monday, 5:30 pm

At 5:30 pm or as soon as Municipal Services wraps up, the Finance Committee also has a very busy meeting planned. The headline from this meeting is likely to be the committee's recommendation to the full council related to Appleton's share of approving the Fox Cities Sports Facility Project, expected to be constructed in Grand Chute and financed using Room Tax dollars.

The council has had a good deal of time to review the documents on this issue: We received them well in advance of the holiday but have not had a chance to act on them yet due to the holiday gap in our meeting schedule (council did not meet on July 4, our regularly scheduled date). I know Grand Chute and the others involved are eager to get this project going, but I hope both those active in the project and those observing from outside will understand and appreciate our desire to do our due diligence on a project of this scope.

You can see all of this week's meeting agendas 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.

Monday, April 16, 2018

What you may not know: Week of April 16

Before I get to this week's council notes, I wanted to send out my heartfelt thanks to the city's Department of Public Works and Police and Fire Departments for their efforts to keep the city safe and to all of my constituents for their patience and understanding while we all work to dig out from this weekend's massive snow event. It's been a very challenging weekend and Monday for a lot of us and I appreciate the efforts of everyone who has worked to help others get through it.

Now, with that said, this is an important week for the Appleton Common Council. A new council year begins on Tuesday night with the swearing in and re-swearing in of members of the council that were elected and re-elected two weeks ago and the council's committee, board and commission assignments will be re-set on Wednesday. In addition to that, there are a couple other items of interest on agendas:

Mixed Use Library

The Appleton Common Council has already voted to continue negotiations with Commercial Horizons regarding including the library in a proposed mixed use development on the site of the Soldier's Square parking ramp. On Tuesday afternoon at 4:30 the Library Board will meet and their agenda includes the same action item.

It's worth noting once again that this is not a decision on a final design, funding model or budgetary commitment. An affirmative vote by the Library Board would simply be a continuation of the process in partnership with Commercial Horizons in an effort to meet the library's needs as part of development of this space. A development agreement and several other important votes on this project are yet to come.

Re-development on West College Avenue

Elsewhere in long-awaited projects, last week the City Plan Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of a Special Use Permit necessary for a proposed redevelopment of the long vacant former K-Mart site on West College Avenue. The Common Council is expected to vote on that recommendation on Wednesday night. Last week the city released renderings of a proposed plan for the site that calls for retail facing College Avenue and personal storage behind the building.

The former K-Mart site has been vacant for a variety of reasons for the entirety of my tenure on council and many years before that. I'm excited for this opportunity to see something new take shape on this long-blighted property.

You can see all of this week's meeting agendas 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.

Monday, April 2, 2018

What you may not know: Week of April 2

Before I get to the council update, please note that Election Day is Tuesday, April 2. Residents of the 13th district will have a State Supreme Court race and two referendums on their ballots, and most will also have a school board race. Residents of the 13th district vote at Celebration Ministry Center (aka Faith Lutheran) at 3100 E Evergreen Drive, and polls will be open from 7 am to 8 pm. Please plan ahead, as the weather for tomorrow looks a bit ominous.

The Appleton Common Council will also hold our regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday night, and one item on the agenda will likely overshadow most of the others:

Mixed Use Library

Last week in a joint meeting the Appleton Finance Committee and the Library Board's Building and Equipment Committee both voted unanimously to recommend continuing to work with Commercial Horizons on design and a development agreement for a mixed use facility anchored by a new library on the site of the existing Soldier's Square Parking Ramp.

The wording used above is important: Please note that the council action item is simply approval of continuing the process. This is not the approval of a final design, financing model or any of the other final steps that will need to be taken to start construction. If approved, this action item would allow city and library staff to continue to work with Commercial Horizons to develop a plan for the project ahead. This is a big step forward and I'm grateful to both the Finance and Building and Equipment committees for their approval, but much more work has to be done before this project can begin.

You can see all of this week's meeting agendas 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.

Monday, March 26, 2018

What you may not know: Week of March 26

An normal council committee week features one meeting likely to generate a fair amount of discussion:

Joint Meeting of the Library Board Building & Equipment Committee and Appleton Finance Committee, Monday, 5:30 pm

After an informational meeting several weeks ago and a public open house two weeks ago, tonight committees from the Common Council and Library Board will come together again and have been asked to make a recommendation on proceeding with a plan proposed by Commercial Horizons to build a new library as part of a mixed-use building on the site of the existing Soldier's Square parking ramp.

I do not know what to expect in terms of discussion tonight but I am grateful to see this discussion continuing to move forward. If you are planning on attending tonight's meeting my advice to you would be to arrive early: Our council chambers have limited seating space and I suspect that space will quickly fill up. We attempted to hold this meeting in a larger venue but that process was complicated by AASD's spring break.

Finally, I will take a moment to address a concern I receive every time we discuss the library: Referendum. At this point there are no plans to put the library project up for referendum. While I understand the sentiment behind seeking that path, staff and alderpersons have spent countless hours informing themselves and preparing to make what they feel is the correct decision here. I don't think it's fair to expect the voters to put in the kind of time it would take to reach that level of understanding on the project. Simply put, I think difficult decisions like this are why we have elected representatives: To apply the time and energy required to make an informed decision when it would be infeasible for the general public to do so.

You can see all of this week's meeting agendas 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.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

What you may not know: Week of March 12

The Appleton Common Council has a full slate of committee meetings due up this week, and here are some of the highlights:

Municipal Services Committee, Monday, 4:30 pm

With the first year of the new pool at Erb Park behind us, we now have a better feel on demand for the facility and its resulting impact on the surrounding neighborhoods. As users flocked to the new pool last summer it created some issues for traffic along nearby streets as parked cars on both sides caused the roads to become very narrow. Parkway Boulevard, Roosevelt Street and Morrison Street near the west edge of Erb Park are only 27, 29 and 32 feet wide, respectively, so parking along those streets created specific challenges.

Last summer the city had to put up some temporary no parking zones to alleviate some of the issues, and on Monday the Municipal Services Committee will be asked to approve a six-month trial of some new restrictions. A map of the proposed restrictions can be seen at the attachment here. They include:

  • Seasonal no parking zones on one side of Morrison Street north of Parkway Blvd and a small portion of Glendale Avenue near Morrison Street.
  • Seasonal no parking zones on one side of Roosevelt Street between Oneida Street and Morrison Street, and along Morrison street south of Roosevelt St.
Assuming these changes pass they will be re-evaluated following the pool's open months and potentially considered for permanent adoption.

Finance Committee, Monday, 5:30 pm

Over the last few years the city has experienced some issues with neighboring municipalities incorporating from towns into villages. Cities are allowed to annex properties within towns, and Appleton had boundary agreements with both the Towns of Harrison and Menasha granting the city the ability to bring parcels within portions of those towns into the city when the right time to do so arrived.

When Harrison and the Town of Menasha incorporated into villages (in this case the Villages of Harrison and Fox Crossing) it complicated those agreements and both villages eventually annexed properties that had been listed as part of Appleton's future growth area in the previous agreements. The city has engaged in litigation in both cases.

This week the Finance Committee will be asked to approve an agreement with the Village of Fox Crossing to settle one of those cases. At this time I do not have details on what the committee will be asked to consider: There is no attachment to the item or explanation beyond what I've already said.

Speaking of annexation, on Monday the committee will also be asked to recommend waiving the City's future interest in annexation for another property in Grand Chute, located at 3236 E Northland Avenue (the vacant parcel at the intersection of French Road and Northland). At a previous meeting the committee was informed that the owners of the parcel have interest in coming into the city but accepting the property would also leave the city as a responsible party for potentially costly work that needs to be done on French Road and the intersection in that area. Additionally, our city utilities are not currently extended to that area and bringing them in under Highway 41 and/or 441 would create significant challenges.

Board of Health, Wednesday, 7 am

An often-recurring discussion about noise variances as they relate to live music near downtown will come before the Board of Health again on Wednesday morning.

At their last meeting in February the Board voted to recommend denial of a noise variance request for Fox River House for their outdoor summer concerts, citing concerns from neighbors about the volume levels and the frequency of events. Looking back through the city's Granicus archives shows that this item has received significant discussion, debate and occasionally amendments each year since our records moved to their current system in 2014.

At the heart of this debate is a single question: What is a reasonable expectation for property owners who live in a neighborhood at the edge of a thriving downtown? As part of this discussion each year we are reminded that Fox River House and its original music are a big part of the attraction of downtown for a large number of people but they also create challenges for nearby property owners.

At this meeting the board will also be asked to consider a resolution from Alderperson Ed Baranowski calling for a review of the noise variance policy for special events. 

Mixed-Use Development Open House, Thursday, 6-8 pm

The next step in the development of a plan for a new Appleton Public Library will take place this week as city and library staff and the development team will host an event for those interested in learning more about the recommended proposal.

The event will include displays of the proposed project, a 6:30 pm presentation from Mayor Hanna and the development team and a question and answer session. Following this event the process will likely continue at future meetings of the city's Finance Committee and the Library Board's Building Committee.

You can see all of this week's meeting agendas 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.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

What you may not know: Week of February 26

It's a full committee week for the Appleton Common Council but most of the attention will likely center on one meeting:

Joint meeting of the Finance Committee and Library Board's Building & Equipment Committee, Monday, 5:30 pm

The process of determining the fate of the Appleton Public Library will take a key step this week as committees of the Common Council and Library Board will meet together to receive details for the first time about a proposal for a mixed-use library project on the current site of the Soldier Square parking ramp.

News about the recommended site and project broke for the first time on Thursday. The proposal includes the library along with $22 million of private elements in the project, including apartments or condos and commercial spaces.

Aside from what's been reported in the media I have not heard anything about the proposal so, like many people, I will be looking forward to seeing the presentation on Monday night and learning more about what's planned. Please note that Monday's presentation is only informational and no official action will be taken. After Monday's meeting I'm hoping we'll have a clear and reasonable timeframe for the next steps in this process.

City Plan Commission, Tuesday, 4 pm

It will likely be overshadowed by Monday's meeting but on Tuesday the City Plan Commission will take up an item of local interest in the 13th district, as they have two items related to the expansion of the subdivision north of County Highway JJ and west of French Road.

The two items are a proposed rezoning and a preliminary plat addition for the fifth addition to the Emerald Valley Estates subdivision. The proposal calls for 23 new single-family lots located west of Providence Avenue. Two things of note with this proposal:

  • The rezoning calls for the lots to be zoned R1B, which as we've discussed recently is still single-family zoning but allows for smaller lots and a greater percentage of lot coverage than R1A zoning.
  • As I've noted previously, every large or small new development in the northeast corner of the city creates increased strain on limited infrastructure serving this area, including police and fire protection and schools.
There will be more of these rezonings and expansions coming in the years ahead: Much of the property north and west of this development is already expected to be added to this subdivision in future years. The challenges created by that development are not going away and will require increased spending to solve.

You can see all of this week's meeting agendas 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.





Monday, February 5, 2018

What you may not know: Week of February 5

The Appleton Common Council has our first full council meeting of the month on Wednesday and most of the items on the agenda are things we've previously discussed:

Landfill Expansion

As I mentioned two weeks ago, Outagamie County has started the process of getting approvals to expand their landfill between French and Holland Road. The next space used is expected to be at the northeast corner of their existing footprint, nearest to the corner of Highway 41 and French Road.

This expansion is still a long time away but Outagamie County is getting out ahead of the permitting process, which takes some time to complete. As I mentioned in my last update, at this time the only action the city is taking is appointing our negotiating representatives to protect our interests as this project moves along in future years.

Exhibition Center Financing

Last week the Appleton Redevelopment Authority voted 5-2 to approve the concept of a proposed borrowing package calling for bonds to be issued as the final funding mechanism for construction of the Fox Cities Exhibition Center, so that process can finally move along. Barring any further setbacks, that transaction is set to be finalized the first week in April.

In the meantime, the city's short term loan to the ARA to cover the costs of the project is still in place. As of March 1 the city will have lost an estimated $237,500 in interest income on the money loaned to ARA. Two weeks ago the Finance Committee unanimously approved a recommendation calling for the city to attempt to recoup that lost income as part of the facility's final borrowing. That resolution appears on Wednesday's council agenda.

I expect we will approve this resolution, but actually recouping the funds would require the consent of the nine other member municipalities involved in the project. I can't speak to how they will react to this request.

New Subdivision along Cherryvale

Two weeks ago the City Plan Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of a proposed final plat for the new Creekside Estates subdivision, a collection of 13 single-family lots along Cherryvale Avenue south of the creek. The plat remains largely unchanged from what has been previously discussed, and I expect it to pass council this week without issue.

The only change of note in this project relates to the proposed six-foot berm along the creek side of the properties: The Board of Zoning Appeals recently voted to reject a request for a variance that would have allowed this berm, but I've since been informed that a process remains in place for the berm to be approved and installed as planned. This is a positive for all involved, as the berm would protect both the privacy of the owners of these new properties, who will have the Apple Creek Trail running adjacent to their property, and the privacy of property owners on the north side of the creek.

You can see all of this week's meeting agendas 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.

Monday, January 29, 2018

What you may not know: Week of January 29

January has five Wednesdays this year, and typically the week of the fifth Wednesday would be an off week for the Appleton Common Council. This week, however, one special meeting is scheduled and it's a pretty significant one:

Appleton Redevelopment Authority, Wednesday, 4:30 pm

The permanent financing process for the Fox Cities Exhibition Center will hopefully take another step forward this week as the ARA, who will hold the final debt for the project, is expected to act upon the Appleton Common Council's recommendation regarding the funding option.

On January 17 the council voted to recommend a borrowing package presented by Robert W. Baird and Company that called for the project to be financed via bonding instead of private placement of the debt, which had previously been presented to us as the city's best option. The biggest difference between the two options is the variability of the interest rate: Bonding provides a guaranteed rate for the duration of the repayment, while private placement rates would have been adjusted every five years based on interest rate fluctuation.

On Wednesday the ARA will receive a presentation from Baird on the council-recommended option. If they wish to approve that option, they will also need to rescind a previous action taken in August that advanced them down the private placement path. Assuming they take both of those steps, Baird will be able to start the 60-day bonding process. Between now and the end of that process we will need all of our partner municipalities to sign onto the final agreement.

If everything remains on schedule, the final authorization to sell bonds could happen as soon as the first week in April. I'm hopeful the ARA will take action this week to keep this process moving forward, as the costs for delay are significant: These final loans will repay short term loans from the city's general fund, which continues to lose out on potential interest income while waiting to be made whole. Last week the Finance Committee approved a resolution calling for the city's lost interest income to be repaid as part of the bonding process. Nonetheless, that lost income figure will continue to grow until permanent financing for the project is in place.

You can see all of this week's meeting agendas 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.

Monday, January 22, 2018

What you may not know: Week of January 22

The Appleton Common Council has a busy committee week ahead, and here are some of the highlights:

Municipal Services Committee, Monday, 4:30 pm

On Monday afternoon the Municipal Services Committee will learn about and have their first opportunity to react to Outagamie County's plans for the expansion of their landfill site.

The agenda for this meeting includes a resolution designating the city's representatives for negotiations with the Village of Little Chute and Outagamie County regarding the placement of a new landfill next to the existing landfill between French and Holland Road. The resolution cites no timeline for how much longer the county expects to use their current landfill facility or how soon they'll need a new one. The new site, located near the southeast corner of Highway 41 and French Road, is within 1500 feet of the border with Appleton, making the city an impacted municipality.

Again, however, I will reiterate that the action item on the agenda is simply an acknowledgement of the proceeding and a formal action to appoint the city's negotiating representatives: City Attorney Jim Walsh and Director of Public Works Paula Vandehey. I anticipate we will learn a fair amount about the plans and procedures on Monday afternoon but no further formal actions will be taken.

Finance Committee, Monday, 5:30 pm

Last week the Finance Committee and Common Council voted to approve a recommendation that the final Fox Cities Exhibition Center borrowing happen via bond and not private placement of debt, as had been the previous plan. Now, the next step is determining what happens in response to the city's lost interest income while fronting the money for the project.

Initial plans for the Expo Center financing called for the project to have two borrowing phases, a construction loan to cover expenses incurred during the project and a final borrowing package once all of the final costs were known. The city never acquired the former loan, however, due to a misunderstanding on the timeline for the latter loan. Instead, the city paid bills for the construction of the facility out of its cash reserves.

Because those cash reserves were tapped for longer than we had previously expected, the city has lost some of its previously budgeted interest income. Recent estimates suggest that by March 1 that lost interest income will be about $237,500 and will continue to go up until the final bonding is in place around the first week in April. Last Wednesday Alderman Ed Baranowski introduced a resolution calling for the city to include lost interest income in the FCEC's final borrowing package with the intention of making the city whole for revenue lost.

I understand the premise of this resolution but I'll be curious to see if or how any of the partner municipalities in the FCEC project react to it. I think Alderman Baranowski's request is reasonable but I think we'll have to be careful in how we discuss it to make it clear that we're simply trying to recoup our losses, not attempting to make a profit because we loaned the money ourselves instead of getting it from a bank.

City Plan Commission, Tuesday, 4:30 pm

Last week the Common Council voted to approve a rezoning seeking to open the door for the creation of 13 new single family lots along the east side of Cherryvale Avenue south of Apple Creek. This week that process will take another step forward as the City Plan Commission will be asked to make a recommendation on the proposed final plat for this new subdivision.

There are no material changes between what has been previously proposed and what is in this final plat. The plans continue to call for 13 single-family lots along Cherryvale with an average of 11,600 square feet and an average width of 58 feet. The lots will be a little narrower than what is allowed under R1A zoning (hence their recent rezoning to R1B) but will be very deep and as a result will be larger than many R1A lots. The preliminary plat calls for a small sliver of property at the north end of the development to be dedicated to the public and a 16,000+ square foot outlot at the north end of the subdivision that will not be developed at this time.

Additionally, last week the Board of Zoning Appeals voted to deny this subdivision developer's request to install a six-foot berm along the rear of these properties near the Apple Creek Trail. The vote was split on this measure and I'm working to learn what happened. I'm hopeful the Board will reconsider this decision, as the berm would be beneficial for the privacy of both property owners in this new subdivision and owners of property across the creek.

You can see all of this week's meeting agendas 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.

Monday, January 15, 2018

What you might not know: Week of January 15

Appleton's first Common Council meeting of 2018 is scheduled for this Wednesday but before we get there we have some significant committee work to take on:

Special Finance Committee, Monday, 4:30 pm

Last week at our regular meeting the Finance Committee heard from representatives from R.W. Baird regarding a possible option to use revenue bonds in place of our previously proposed financing model (placing the debt with local banking institutions) to finance the construction of the Fox Cities Exhibition Center, which held its grand opening on Thursday.

Based on our previous conversations we know that the bond option is almost certainly going to be preferable to the previous financing model: The estimated interest rate is lower up-front and is fixed, as compared to a variable rate in the bank financing model. At the last Finance meeting chairperson Kathleen Plank asked for a side-by-side comparison of the two models to use to make our recommendation.

Unfortunately, as of Sunday night there were no items attached to the agenda for Monday afternoon's meeting and the requested comparison had not been shared with members of the committee. I'm both frustrated and disappointed that the committee is expected to make a recommendation on a borrowing package in excess of $30 million but will have received at most a few hours to review the proposals before our meeting. While I know what I anticipate will be the best option in this case, I cannot comfortably commit to supporting a transaction of this magnitude without having the requested comparison and time to review it. At a bare minimum, I intend to ask the committee to hold this item.

If action is taken on this item it will appear on the full council agenda on Wednesday alongside these items we've discussed before:

New Subdivision Development Agreement

Last week the Finance Committee voted unanimously to recommend approval of a development agreement for "North Edgewood Estates," a proposed 129-lot single family development north of County Highway JJ and east of French Road. It's the first step towards approval of a new project expected to be completed in phases over the next ten years. Assuming the agreement is passed by council on Wednesday the property will still need to be annexed into the city, rezoned and platted.

Last week I noted some of the challenges created by continued development on the north side as it relates to school enrollment and fire protection, two cases where resources in our neighborhood are already stretched pretty thin. In response to last week's post I was also reminded that more development on the north side will lead to additional congestion on some of our busier streets, although some of that will be alleviated as the intersection of Highway JJ and French Road is currently in our five-year plan for improvements. 

Cherryvale Avenue rezoning

Back in December we discussed a proposed rezoning of property along Cherryvale Avenue south of the creek, where developers have asked for the ability to create 13 single family lots zoned R1B. Most of the property is currently zoned R1A, with a small sliver at the south end of the proposal currently zoned R2.

The primary differences between R1A and R1B zoning are the minimum lot sizes and lot widths. At the City Plan Commission meeting last month we learned that the latter was the reason for the developer's request: The shape of the parcel between Cherryvale and the creek makes it possible to establish 13 lots that meet the minimum square footage requirements for R1A zoning but not the minimum width.

The developers asking for this rezoning are looking for an opportunity to start another project similar to one they recently finished along Glenhurst Lane between Lightning and Milestone Drive. That project was very successful and well-received by the neighbors, and I think seeing it alleviated some neighbors' concerns about what this development might look like.

Council will be asked to approve the rezoning on Wednesday night. Additionally, on Monday night the Board of Zoning Appeals will be asked to approve a request to allow construction of a six-foot high berm along the rear of these properties that should further reduce their impact on property owners across the creek.

Commercial Quadricycles

After months of discussion, last Wednesday the Safety & Licensing Committee voted unanimously to recommend approval of a repeal of the city's relatively recent ban on consumption of alcohol on commercial quadricycles and the framework for a new ordinance on how such businesses would be allowed to operate in the city.

After some deliberation and consideration of how this regulation occurs in other cities, most notably Green Bay, the committee opted to recommend approval of an ordinance framework as follows:
  • Repeal the current ordinance banning alcohol on quadricycles.
  • Expand the city's definition of limousine to allow quadricycles to be licensed as limousines.
  • Grant the Police Department the authority to approve or deny proposed quadricycle routes and establish an appeal process to come before the Safety & Licensing committee if an applicant feels a route was unfairly denied.
  • Create provisions in the city's current ordinances on limousines to create a penalty for operating outside of approved routes and creating a process for revoking a license for repeated offenses of said provision.
The types and volume of beverages allowed on the quadricycle and a variety of other provisions are already covered by state statute and had previously been adopted into Appleton's city ordinances. Violations of the state statute carry significant penalty: A first offense calls for a fine of not less than $1000 and a permanent revocation of the driver's license to operate a commercial quadricycle.

Given the framework listed above and the accompanying state statute, I'm comfortable opening the door for businesses to allow alcohol on quadricycles and I'm confident that they'll be careful to avoid causing any issues or challenges.

You can see all of this week's meeting agendas 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.

Monday, January 8, 2018

What you may not know: Week of January 8

The Appleton Common Council returns from our holiday break this week with an abbreviated schedule of committee meetings, but several items of interest at one of them:

Finance Committee, Monday, 5:30 pm

If you've been following the news then you're likely familiar with the fact that the Fox Cities Exhibition Center is scheduled to host its grand opening this week but some work remains between the participating communities to determine how the project will be funded. Our understanding all along was that financing would take place via local banks, which would allow us to both keep the money being spent in the community and avoid costs associated with selling revenue bonds. This idea has not been well received by some of the other communities participating in the project.

As such, tonight the Finance Committee will hear from representatives of Robert W. Baird and Company on potential funding options. Hopefully this issue can be resolved soon so a final funding source can be in place. The project is currently being funded by a short-term loan from the city to the Appleton Redevelopment Authority.

Meanwhile, another item of local interest to the 13th district is on the same agenda: Tonight the Finance Committee will be asked to recommend approval of a development agreement for a proposed 129-lot single family subdivision east of French Road and north of County Highway JJ. The new neighborhood would be known as "North Edgewood Estates" and would be north of the current apartment development off of Paris Way. It's expected to be constructed in phases between now and 2028.

Continued development is, largely speaking, good news for the city and its taxpayers as it continues to expand the city's tax base. Every time new development occurs on the north side, however, I feel compelled to mention that this continues to place added strain on limited resources. Students from this development will likely attend Huntley Elementary, already the city's largest elementary school. Additionally, this neighborhood will be served by Fire Station #6, the only station in the city staffed with just one fire truck. Addressing the additional needs created by continued development in this area will be necessary at some point and likely expensive.

Assuming council approves this proposed agreement many more steps will need to take place before construction gets underway: The property will need to be annexed into the city (it's currently in the Town of Grand Chute), rezoned and platted before any work can begin.

Safety & Licensing, Wednesday, 5:30 pm

The Safety & Licensing Committee has been discussing the possibility of allowing alcohol on commercial quadricycles for a few months now, but I'm hopeful we'll be able to reach a recommendation this Wednesday to pass along to the full council.

The city banned alcohol on the cycles, often referred to as "pedal pubs," early in my tenure on council but has opted to reexamine that decision in light of the success and non-offensive nature of such vehicles both here in the city and beyond. The challenge in the discussion to this point has been figuring out how the city would regulate these vehicles.

Last week I met with the City Attorney's office in an effort to outline an ordinance structure that would allow the cycles to operate but keep them off of some of Appleton's busiest streets (most notably College Avenue and Richmond Street). State statute is already very specific on what is allowed on the vehicles and has very strict penalties, including a permanent ban from operating a commercial cycle, for any who fail to follow. I suspect the framework we've created will allow this resolution to go forward but will also require operators of these cycles to proceed very carefully.

You can see all of this week's meeting agendas 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.