City Council shelves $15,000 budget survey

BY CHRIS CLARK | MAY 05, 2009 7:30 AM

The Iowa City City Council won’t ask residents for input on city projects — at least, not right now.

The council decided against spending money for a public survey at its Monday night work session. Initially, the council planned to use the survey to help determine which city projects should get high priorities for the next fiscal year budget.

The survey would have cost the city around $15,000, and another option — which involved the councilors calling people directly — would have cost around $18,000.

Several councilors said they were wary of the necessity and cost of the survey.

Councilor Matt Hayek noted it’s part of the council’s job to assess the community’s needs.

“We are elected officials,” he said. “We live here, we work here — and through that we should be able to develop an idea of what the community’s priorities are. We do that every year.”

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But Mayor Regenia Bailey said a public survey may be more appropriate to get reaction on a more concrete budget, when there is one.

Bailey suggested possibly putting more definite budget plans on the city’s website and inviting public response.

At Monday’s work session, the council also discussed a proposed ordinance that would limit the number of bars and liquor stores.

New bars — defined as businesses normally open between midnight and 2 a.m., generating most of their revenue from food and drink sales — would be restricted from opening within 500 feet of another bar across the entire city.

The proposal was in response to the council’s desire to diversify businesses downtown to combat the area’s growing bar density.

By limiting the number of bars throughout the entire city, rather than just downtown, the council “might be doing more than necessary,” Hayek said.

Their main reason for discussing the issue, he noted, was both because of the high number of bars and high concentration of students in the downtown area.

But others disagreed.

Bailey said the issue is more than just a downtown problem.

“Why not just address the problem and make it communitywide?” she asked the council. “I think it will make all of our commercial zones healthier.”

The proposal requires a 1,000 foot separation between liquor stores, but only in the downtown business district.

The council plans to hear input from the public on the bar issue at tonight’s meeting.

In other business, the council discussed parking issues on the 10 block of South Dubuque Street.

Last November, nine metered parking spots were replaced with a commercial loading zone to reduce congestion and improve public safety.

After monitoring the use of the zone, Iowa City’s Transportation Services Director Chris O’Brien suggested replacing some of the commercial zone with 15-minute loading areas for any vehicle. The zones could maximize parking availability for people doing business in the area, according to city documents.

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