Monday, May 12, 2014

Cinderella Zoning

0.62 inches of rain in the last 24 hours and more coming.

I attended a New Municipalities Officer Workshop all day Friday and besides most of the snacks being "healthy options" it was pretty interesting.

For one thing I did not know Parliamentary Procedure (Roberts Rules of Order) was invented by some dude named Robert in a church group in Milwaukee.  WHO KNEW!!  The guy wrote it, printed it and the thing just took off.

Powers of Governing Bodies
Conflicts of Interest
Budgeting and Finance
Procedures for a Meeting
Public Works

The final section of the day, Public Works was fascinating. The guy speaking asked a room of about 50 new officials "how many of you ran and Public Works was one of your bullet points".  About 20 people raised their hand and he was stunned.  Typically he said maybe 3 people raise their hands.

So with even more paperwork and folders being taken home it was time to get MORE organized and what luck!  Columbus was having what is turning into a week long garage sale event.  OH, the ad's say Friday and Saturday for the citywide garage sale but doors open on Wednesday.

As the Mayor says "I promised to bring 250 jobs to Columbus and all of those retailers in garages are being counted as a new job!"   He really did say that (with a grin on his face), I'm not making shit up here!

SO - my goal was to find an inexpensive filing cabinet and after driving a round and striking out we found a big garage/yard sale.  We got out and were looking around at all the things that were WAY overpriced.  A used spatula for $2?  come on. 

BUT - I found the one thing that was not 5 times too expensive.  A metal filing cabinet for $2.50.  So I took it to the front to hold it.   Meanwhile DJ found a little funnel for 75 cents and placed it on top of my filing cabinet while I stood in line.

It comes time to pay and they take the cabinet price and I say "also the funnel"  wait . . . . where is the funnel, it was just here?????  We look all around and some lady has the funnel.  I say "there it is we were about to pay for this" and I reach to take it back, she says "NO, I got it from over their, it's MINE".  I said "was it over there? we were about to purchase it" pointing and she says "It's mine I have it".

I considered wrestling her for it but being on the City Council I felt that perhaps I better not unless I can get a quorum.  We went to True Value and purchased NEW one for $1.50.                

---------- MY RANT OF THE DAY --------------------

My opinion only

I'll be honest with you - with newspaper articles and emails and so forth telling me how the Planning Commission OK'd everything going on in Eisenga-land and why are we just not taking their advice, I'll tell you why.

From my point of view this problem is because the Planning Commission dropped the ball by allowing ShopKo to build a non-compliant building and then the "old" Council just rubber stamped the problem without really understanding the implications down the road.  It is not all of OUR fault!

According to The Handbook for Wisconsin Municipal Officials,

 The Planning Commission is "extensively involved in zoning matters".    

Don't get me wrong I'm NOT throwing the Planning Commission under the bus, it's the City Councils job to make sure the Planning Commission has done their job which, it seems they did not do back whenever ShopKo was designed so many years ago.  I really do appreciate all of what the Planning Commission does and I certainly could not do any better with my knowledge . . but their job is to catch things like this isn't it? 

Do I blame them?  Hell no (well, not entirely), there are checks and balances to make sure buildings are built within the ordinances and not allowed to build outside of the code. Obviously those checks and balances failed. 

I'm not accusing, just informing since the only media that gets printed is from the developers point of view which is why I'm ranting.  One thing I heard way more then twice was "Rod, keep us informed on what is REALLY going on in City Hall" so here I am.   

Sorry sorry - this has been bugging me for a number of days. It's like the current City Council is being blamed for a problem two other groups in the past created.

NOW - being Mr. Optimistic I say that is the past and let's try to look forward and build a great TIF district so in about 15 or 20 years (this is when we can start to collect the "developed" property taxes, until then all we get are wasteland property taxes), Columbus will prosper.

So what was actually happening Tuesday?  The first part was the Council discussing the District Use Classification Table.

Every area in Columbus is zoned for special purposes and inside each zone are certain things you can and cannot build or have. This makes it so you can not have a factory next to a school and so forth.

There are three types of classes.  NEVER, Permitted and  Conditional.

NEVER is self explanatory
Permitted means the developer can  build to his hearts content without interferance.
Conditional means a developer must go in front of Council and there is public input.

In this case Mr. Eisenga created their own District Use Classification Table and wanted the Council to approve it.

Here were the new Uses

Library - C
Bank and other Institutions - P
Outdoor Merchandise Sales - C
Outdoor Seasonal Merchandise Sales - C
Outdoor Merchandise sidewalk, parking lot sales and special events - P
Payday Loan - C
Title Loan Agency - C
Medical Services facility - P
Funeral Home - P
Laundry Mat - P
Dry Cleaning drop/pickup - P
Restaurant-tavern - P
Clubs, Lodges and Fraternal Organizations - P
Health Club - P

One thing I immediately noticed was Payday Loans went from NEVER to Conditional, an upgrade.  Meaning at some point a Council in the future would have to go through the stress of saying NO or say YES because they believe Payday Loans will increase property value.  Well, we were under stress already so why not take care of this problem now!

In the end we agreed to the following

Bank and other Institutions - P
Outdoor Merchandise Sales - C
Outdoor Seasonal Merchandise Sales - C
Outdoor Merchandise sidewalk, parking lot sales and special events - P
Laundry Mat - P
Health Clubs - P

The rest being put off to another time (not tabled which is a different thing - you cannot "table" something with a future date, tables are where things go to die.)  There are things on the list I have no problem with but Payday Loans and Title Companies next door are not one of those.

So then came the second part of the problem - the Zero-Lot-Line problem that the old Planning Commission let slip through their fingers and into our laps.

If Council allows the zero lot line in this area it changes ALL industrial zones here and in the future to have zero lot line.  This is why industrial zones were made - to NOT have zero lot lines.  Why even have zones if you are not going to follow the rules.

Now because the non-compliant ShopKo is already built we cannot say NO right?  We're in a sticky wicket.  Say NO and Council is demonized and our houses are burned down as being anti business even though we are helping future business and future Councils.   Say YES and we now allow strip malls everywhere in industrial zones now and in the future.  OH, we can always say NO in the future right?  Yea - because saying NO to a large group of Say Yes people is so easy!

In the end I think we made money for both the City Lawyers and Eisengas Lawyer as "we" decided to make our YES, a sunset clause.  The Developer has until December 31 2014 to come up with plans for his area, then at the tick of midnight, just like Cinderella,  the Industrial Zone goes back to it's original state. All Industrial zones in the future cannot have a zero-lot-line.

The Sentry (about the size of Pic-N-Save) and Ace (about the size of True Value) can be built and the citizens of Columbus can rejoice (or not, it seems). Their will be a ground breaking at 4:30 near ShopKo and yes, there will be a refreshment tent (whatever that is).

Here is the 1:45 segment.

Columbus Council May 6th 2014 Part ONE from Columbus Wisconsin on Vimeo.


In OTHER NEWS - The Columbus water tower is getting a new paint job. The old silver paint will be blasted off and a new pretty paint job will be put on.  Something about Discover Columbus with something like what is on the right.  I have not seen it yet but it will soon become available, look for it in the next W&L bill.

Are those sails above water??


This Orchard Oriole is very confused.

Here is a love it or hate it image.