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Green plans veto of public review of certain Cedar Falls downtown site plans

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Rob Green

Mayor Rob Green will veto the proposed amendments to the downtown zoning code if adopted by the council. 

CEDAR FALLS — Mayor Rob Green plans to block four councilors from reinstating the public review of certain site plans for new downtown development.

In a Facebook post Monday, Green said he will veto the ordinance that brings about the review if ultimately adopted by a City Council majority. Councilors Susan deBuhr, Dave Sires, Daryl Kruse and Dustin Ganfield initially supported it in its entirety.

It would give the Planning and Zoning Commission and council the authority to review, and decide on whether to accept, the site plans for new buildings and any floor expansions or residential additions for existing buildings in the commercialized areas of downtown at public meetings.

Under the current code, the city’s hired staff, not its elected or appointed bodies, look over the plans.

Also noted in Green’s post was his intention to veto the change in procedure councilors first would approve, possibly intentionally, to make it easier for them to pass the entire ordinance package.

“The proposed zoning process changes – eliminating the supermajority and reinstating P&Z/Council review of individual site plans – would be harmful to Cedar Falls’s ability to attract quality development projects, would destabilize the long-established planning and zoning balance of powers in our city, and counterproductive for addressing both short-term and long-term challenges in our development process,” said Green in a lengthy memo to the council and commission.

He listed eight “major concerns,” one being that the council’s role should be to create and continuously improve the city’s zoning ordinances, and to hold the mayor and city administrator accountable for ensuring that city staff carries out the ordinances fairly and accurately.

“Intervention by the city council on individual site plans provides no real benefit to the city,” he said.

Last week, the council authorized the city’s planning department to draft an ordinance to reduce the voting threshold from five to four members of the seven-person council to override any commission recommendations on proposed zoning ordinance amendments.

“The supermajority requirement for an override of P&Z recommendations helps to ensure that these weighty, long-term decisions are not made for short-term political ends, but instead enjoy wide support from the community,” wrote Green.

On Monday, the council will consider scheduling the public hearing for the proposed threshold ordinance for Oct. 17.

In this case, the review for new buildings was endorsed by commission, not the floor expansions or residential additions after a close 5-4 vote.

The change in procedure would mean the council’s four supporters could send both changes for site plan review to Green for his signature, without needing a fifth vote in support of the floor expansions or residential additions.

The discussion stems from the adoption of new zoning rules and regulations for the downtown in November, and ongoing conversations the council has introduced over the months on amendments to the code.

The commission met Wednesday to discuss another one of the council’s proposed zoning ordinance amendments.

“There has been quite a bit of discussion still about the shared parking and the requirements and how that’s going to work, and so council has again requested your consideration of just eliminating the shared parking and allowing that to be voluntary, instead of a requirement in the code,” Planning and Community Services Manager Karen Howard told the commission.

The commission voted 7-1 to keep the requirements for certain new downtown developments to share an amount of parking with the public for 12 hours per day, and against increasing the parking requirements for residential uses in mixed-use and multi-unit buildings from 0.75 to one space per bedroom.

The only zoning amendment the council has since adopted increased the requirement from .5 to .75 spaces per bedroom, but not less than 1 space per unit.

The council and commission previously downed a proposal to eliminate the sharing parking requirement.

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Cedar Falls, Waverly City Government Reporter

I've covered city government for The Courier since August 2021. I'm a Chatham, NJ native who graduated from Gettysburg College in 2018 and previously worked for publications in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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