Iowa City councilors prepare for Melrose vendor vote

BY NINA EARNEST | JUNE 21, 2011 7:20 AM

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The University of Iowa might pitch in resources to quell complaints about messy tailgators before Hawkeye football games.

Doug Boothroy, the director of the city’s Housing and Inspection Services, said he received an e-mail from UI officials earlier this month, explaining they were considering deployment of more portable toilets and trash receptacles on school property.

“I think that if they deploy in these areas, it will help, but it will not solve the trash problem,” he told the council. “It’s a step in the right direction, and I think they should be commended for that.”

In a May interview with The Daily Iowan, UI President Sally Mason said the university had not taken a stance on the issue. UI spokesman Tom Moore said in that interview the university would not adopt an official stance unless invited to do so by the city.

“Whatever resources can be brought to bear would constitute good progress,” said Iowa City Mayor Matt Hayek.

Boothroy also presented suggestions by the Planning and Zoning Commission at the Monday night council work session, recommending a $75 fee for a temporary-use permit that, pending council approval, will be required for vending on Melrose Avenue.

In order to be granted a temporary permit, vendors must also receive approval from the Fire Department, have proper identification of gas mains, and set up no earlier than 10 a.m. Friday. Two inspectors are slated to arrive at Melrose at 7 a.m., Boothroy said, to ensure compliance with the ordinance.

The recommendations present a compromise following an Iowa City panel’s initial request in April for an all-out ban of the vendors. The Melrose Neighborhood Association first appealed to the council because of problems with trash, vomit, and public urination.

The motion was immediately met with outcry from community members, who argued the vendors were a part of the game-day tailgating experience.

Hayek said Monday vendors were involved in reaching the compromise.

“This process has involved the vendor community since the beginning,” he said.

The new ordinance will unite all separate existing city requirements dictating game-day vending under one ordinance. And the sooner the ordinance is voted upon, the sooner it can be put on the books.

A public hearing is set for tonight’s formal council session, during which councilors will vote on first consideration of the ordinance. Forgoing the usual three voting sessions necessary to pass such an ordinance, the city councilors will expedite the vote and have the issue settled by their July 5 meeting.

Boothroy said there are likely to be honest mistakes made during the first season of the ordinance — but there should be some accountability required for those who don’t comply.

Ron Christensen, the owner of Gameday Iowa, said he does not expect members of the public to show more support at the hearing tonight, because they have done so in the past few months.

“The people have made it very well-known that the vendors on Melrose are a big part of what’s going on over there on game day,” he said.

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