Council member Julie was out sick, though she did give us some ideas for some of the important items on the agenda.
Work session on the Budget
This was our first meeting regarding the budget. Typically every year we get some idea of what people would like to see during the budget process and it flows out of that.
This year we have a debt expiring that consumed roughly $325k every year out of the tax levy. The remaining debt is paid from fees such as hookups, water fees, etc. There was a suggestion that we continue that payment to help pay down one of the other debts. That debt is at roughly 2.5% and is currently paid out of fees (water, sewer). I didn't think it made sense to pay down a 2.5% bond when inflation is rearing it's nasty head and we may have to borrow money at some point.
For the most part, expectations were to continue to reduce our tax burden and focus on what is needed. As I've mentioned in the past, our city's tax levy has increased proportional to property values rather than focusing on what was needed.
I believe we did pretty good last year. The previous 4 years seen an average of about 15.5% increases. This council limited that to 7.1% last year. At this time it's looking like we should be able to do much better for this budget.
Item G (Resignation of Administrator/Development Director)
Tina has been with the city for a number of years. She was brought on as the development director and the city decided to have her also fill in for the recently vacated Administrator position. While Tina put in a LOT of extra time to handle both of these roles, it became obvious to me that development had reached a point where there wasn't room for both. A Development Director position opened in an area south of the cities close to where she used to work and she took the position. She gave us more than expected with a 30 day notice and it'll be appreciated to help with the transition. More on that below.
Item J (Donnay Homes Concept Plan Review)
Though this was a concept plan. it appeared to me to be a little early. Prior to the council getting these, the planning commission also reviews them and a lot of the comments were similar, even though changes were made between Planning seeing it and this presentation. Concerns about the product type (townhomes and twins), a lot of private road for the amount of homes, lack of trail (or at least right of way) on territorial... I believe they have some work to do before it's presented again.
Item L (Discussion on Growth Management)
This topic is messy. Years back the city had a growth management ordinance that expired in 2016. In addition, that ordinance WOULD have landed us in court had it actually been used. The previous council proposed one (but never enacted it), but that would have resulted in bulking up 2 years worth of development every 2 years. Some of this proposed ordinance change was to limit each development to some percentage of permits for each phase. I had a few problems with it:
- It's messy to track and coordinate.
- It's not really accomplishing anything since once a development starts, that land is cleared and graded anyways...
- The developer puts a lot of money into getting the land ready and I don't think there's any benefit to the city OR the residents in getting the city involved in the coordination between the developer and builder.
I believe the only way to have any sort of handle or predictability on growth is through the Comprehensive Plan. That document (if followed) allows much more predictability to the land owners, developers, and residents. I think there was consensus on that being where the future tinkering will be. We agreed we would need some better tools to be able to monitor land consumption versus land available.
Item M and N were postponed (Alro steel plat)
Item O (Amendment to Zoning Code)
Another messy topic. Part of the reason for the mess was my misunderstanding of the current situation. Months back we had decided to look at front and side yard setbacks. Where the confusion came in, is there are (and for good reason) differences in side yard setbacks between small lots (such as Villas) and larger lots > 60 feet width. We had a few builders (locals who's opinions I value) that came in to give their opinions and explained why the 60 foot delineator is there, along with how the side setback affects the entire lot. The end result was no change to those setbacks but a request by one of the council to have some limit (by %) on the number of small lots per development. That limit used to be there but at some point was inadvertently removed.
Item P (Replacement Process for Administrator)
We had a few items to consider here:
- Decide on an interim administrator. It was decided that an internal choice was best and there were only two employees that requested consideration; Zach (Finance Director) and Marty (Public Works Director). The decision was to go with Zach primarily due to the fact that his workload is pretty steady and he's in the office with the people he would manage.
- How to start looking for a permanent administrator. We decided to put out an RFP to have an outside firm help us make that decision.
- We decided to use a consultant we've periodically used to help with development in the short term in conjunction with Alec. There is somewhat of a lull in activity which will help.
As usually, contact me with your opinions and questions!