Here we are, Neighbors, back in a Full Council Week in city government. Thanks for joining me for your regular preview of all you can expect this week. Besides the meeting of the full council, there are two formal meetings and one informal meeting scheduled for this week. Here’s what’s up:
Board of Zoning Appeals – 7pm There are two action items for the same property on this board’s agenda. I will be interested to hear how these come out as this is regarding a proposed extra-large sign on the Thedacare/Encircle property on Capitol Drive (and backed up to Highway 41). A maximum sign size of 200 square feet and electronic message boards (EMBs) of a maximum of 48 square feet are allowed by municipal code. Thedacare is proposing a 592 square foot sign with an electronic message board of 280 square feet. This property already has a signage variance permitting larger signage than allowed by code. But the proposed very large EMB is of concern as it could be a safety issue/distraction along that stretch of Highway 41. The property will be losing two large signs along the highway due to future Highway 41 upgrades. Thedacare is looking to place this new signage closer to the buildings on their property (so further away from the highway than the existing signs that will be removed) as a replacement for those two signs. But the uniqueness of this 39-acre property spanning from Capital Drive to the freeway could be enough to warrant the board members allowing the variance. We shall see!
Library Board – 4:30pm This board will consider a number of action items including August’s bill register and financial report, a small budget amendment, and a couple of inter-library agreements with other library systems. Then they move on to some large action items including the following:
- The allocation of over $2.5M to multiple contractors for furniture, shelving, and installation in the remodeled library.
- An approximately $750,000 contract award for Audio/Visual equipment for the remodeled library. The proposal from the contractor originally came in at ~$975,000 but was pared back to the meet the A/V budget of $750,000.
- A commissioning contract in the amount of $82,000 for the remodeled library. Commissioning is basically inspection work performed during and post construction to assure the city that the building will be up-to-snuff once the project is complete.
Here is the latest report on the library remodeling project which will also be discussed before the meeting’s conclusion.
Informal Presentation to the Common Council – 6pm There will be an informal presentation to members of the council who wish to hear about the latest on the revamping of the city’s website, Appleton.org. This is not a published or noticed meeting as it should be just a short presentation of the proposed changes and the look and “feel” we can expect when the city’s website is finally revised and updated. I look forward to attending this and seeing examples of what we will all eventually see — hopefully, a much more functional and user-friendly city website for all.
City of Appleton Common Council – 7pm As per usual, the mayor will get things started, this time with only some board reappointments and zero (what?!) proclamations. Then we move on to all of the same things discussed (and re-discussed) this past week in committee meetings. Here are the highlights:
- From the Municipal Services Committee: An affirming of a closure of the Oneida Street access to the city’s drive-thru payment windows through 12/31/2023. (Note: This closure is already in place!) I will be asking how this will impact drive-up property tax payments at the end of this year so that we can all be clear on how to best get our property taxes paid in person later this year.
- From the Safety and Licensing Committee: Updated fee schedules for 1) some liquor licenses and other permits through the clerk’s office and 2) for fire department charges/inspections. Many of these updates have been requested by these departments due to no increases implemented in the last few years (some since 2018 and 2019). And some of these increases could be considered surprising and perhaps egregious. There was much discussion at this committee meeting about increased fees in the city. I am generally opposed to taxpayers being “fee-d to death” when our property taxes should be enough to operate the city. However, in these cases, many of these fees are specific only to certain businesses and in specific instances so they do not apply to all taxpayers in the city. In committee discussions, there was also one amendment to these proposals offered: a removal of the increased fee for personal/recreational outdoor fireplace annual permits. With this change, I can agree that the fees increases are acceptable (though unfortunately so as everything seems to be increasing in price these days). What are your thoughts in this regard?
- From the City Plan Commission: In a repeat-appearance to the council, the rezoning of some property in the Clearwater Creek subdivision. This was previously mentioned here and here. The developer of the property added to the discussion of this issue with some statements rebutting the neighbors concerns about potential disturbance of the wetlands in this area. I believe that due diligence has been done in this respect (in alignment with all Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources requirements) and cannot oppose this rezoning in that regard. There were some other valid concerns regarding the subdivision as it is today (not taking into account the property up for rezoning) that were again presented by neighbors opposed to this project. Those are now on the city staff’s radar for future work/upgrades/etc… but the rezoning is still recommended for approval by the council and is likely to be approved this week.
- From the Finance Committee: A resolution that I signed onto as co-author regarding expectations of the mayor by the council regarding the newly approved state shared revenue dollars was recommended for denial by this committee but will be up for discussion by the full council. I would like to make it clear to the mayor that my concerns (mentioned here) which led to my signing on to this resolution are not allayed if this resolution is not passed by the council. But I suspect that I will have to use one-on-one meeting time with him to address them….
- From the Community and Economic Development Committee: A once very contentious and concerning resolution regarding the adding of strict bird-safe glass rules to the city’s municipal/building code was heavily revised in the committee meeting last week. The language that was of concern to the city attorney (due to ongoing litigation in Madison for their implementation of this same bird-safe building restrictions) was removed and replaced with language 1) requiring the placement of guidance for building owners on bird-safe building recommendations on the city’s website and 2) requiring the eventual placement of bird-safe stickers or film on the glass of city-owned buildings which are of concern for bird strikes. I am relieved about these revisions and think that they are fair and considerate of the issue without being cost-prohibitive to the city. The revised version is one I can support when there was almost nothing in the original about which I could agree. Check out the revised version here and let me know your thoughts.
- From the Board of Health: The board recommended for approval a resolution regarding mental health. As I mentioned last week, I will likely vote “no” on this resolution… not because of the sentiment but because it does not call for any specific action by the council and is therefore not necessary in this body of governance. It really only creates some paperwork expenses and adds postage cost to the city as the final requirement of the resolution is that a copy of it be mailed to local, regional, and state representatives who will likely do nothing with it.
And that will wrap up the week’s business. Please let me know if, by reading anything above, you are sparked to comment or share your feedback with me. I’m happy to listen and communicate with you on these or any other city-business-related issues.
Thank you for joining me here today, for always openly sharing your feedback with me, and for trusting me to represent District 13. I hope you’ll tune in again next week for the next alderman blog installment!
Have a great week!! 🙂