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.

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