Saturday, October 11, 2008

Historic 25th Street District Rezoning Ordinance Finds Itself Back on the Council Calender

Councilman Stephens moves to reconsider "height ordinance"

Interesting development you're not going to read about in this morning's Standard-Examiner. It seems that one of the five council members prevailing in the vote to deny approval of Boss Godfrey's Historic 25th Street District building height zoning amendment has put the matter back on calender:

Ogden City Council *Special Meeting* Agenda - October 14, 2008 at 6:00 p.m.:
8. Old Business:
... b. Reconsideration of Revised Height Limit Ordinance on 25th Street. Reconsideration of Proposed Ordinance 2008-43 amending the Ogden Municipal Code by amending Subsection 15-34-3.A to revise the height limits on 25th Street Historic District. (Reconsider/not reconsider ordinance; if reconsider, receive public input and adopt/not adopt ordinance).[Emphasis added]
Our sources report that it's Councilman Stephens who seemed to have had the change of heart. Stephens thus holds true to his reputation as the most enigmatic and unpredictable council member.

We don't quite get the point, inasmuch as Ogden Properties Inc. has already announced it's pulling out of the project. Perhaps the project isn't quite so dead as we thought.

Be sure to contact your council members to let them know exactly what you think about this latest twist in the Windsor Hotel saga; and don't forget to spread the words to your historic preservationist friends.

We assume the council chamber will be packed next Tuesday with steely-eyed lumpencitizens who oppose Boss Godfrey's reckless approach to our Historic 25th Street designation. You can be assured the G-train and her fellow property-flipping vampires will show up in force. It'll be a lively council meeting, for sure.

Your comments are invited, as always.

18 comments:

Frank said...

It would be interesting to hear why Stephens wants to revisit this subject. He does seem to be a man of character and conviction. Hopefully he is not giving in to a concerted effort by the Godfrey Gaggle to do their selfish bidding. If he changes his vote and the council still defeats the measure it will be 4 to 3 which means that Godfrey could then veto it without a "super majority" of the council to over ride his veto.

Cleaver how this nefarious gang at city hall operates.

In addition to the height restrictions being a danger to the historical district, in my mind a big issue is the proposed addition itself. It is a large and completely out of place glass box sitting on this marvelous old piece of turn of the century architecture. Very tasteless in my opinion, and a real potential eye sore to the whole street.

All of this maneuvering in an effort to enrich the mayor's friends, including Scott Brown who is in the middle of the project. A sad commentary on how a corrupt and selfish little gang can hijack a city government and its citizens. These are the very same greedy practices that has the whole economy in a tail spin.

Moroni McConkie said...

Maybe Stephens's stake president "recommended" that he change his vote?

Curmudgeon said...

Frank:

You wrote: If he changes his vote and the council still defeats the measure it will be 4 to 3 which means that Godfrey could then veto it without a "super majority" of the council to over ride his veto.

The Mayor can not "veto" a Council vote not to pass an ordinance. There's nothing to veto. If the Council passed a revised ordinance, the Mayor could veto that, and it would take a super majority to over ride his veto, but he cannot veto a Council refusal to pass an ordinance, which is what would happen in the 4-3 vote you talk about.

Curmudgeon said...

And maybe Stephen's vote has not changed at all, but he'd like the Council to consider the matter again in light of new information received since the last meeting. Mr. Stephen's has not, let us remember, changed his vote to "aye" at this point. He's merely asked that the matter be placed on the calendar for reconsideration. Not necessarily the same things. It could have also been done as a courtesy to constituents. [That's something I might do as a councilmember if significant numbers of constituents asked for a reconsideration... and I would still feel free to vote "nay" after the reconsideration.] I don't know if any of that is what Mr. Stephens was thinking. I haven't talked to him. Just offering a few suggestions of plausible explanations, and suggesting folks not leap to conclusions.

And we don't know what the Council members in general, or Mr. Stephens in particular, have been hearing since the last vote. If for example, people with strong credentials in historic preservation have come forward to insist that changing the height limit would not endanger the street's Historic District designation, that might easily have convinced him that the matter needed another look.

As for Rudi's question, why is this coming up since the developer has pulled out: recall, the ordinance the Council voted down did not provide a single property variance for the Windsor alone. It would have changed the height limit to 55' for the entire Historic District of 25th Street. If the Landmarks Commission was convinced that was a good idea in and of itself, then going forward with it regardless of the Windsor developer pulling out makes consistent sense. [Note: I did not say that the 55 foot limit is a good idea, before folks start piling on. Merely that if the LC thinks it is, the Windsor developer's dropping out won't change that judgment or provide a reason not to go forward with the zoning change.]

danny said...

I totally disagree with Curm.

16. Reconsideration
A. Any Council member who has voted with the prevailing side of a question may move at the same meeting to reconsider the question at the same meeting, or at the next available Council meeting. If a question has failed by a tie vote, members who voted against the question shall be considered to be on the prevailing side.

Note that neither Stephens nor anybody else can move that the council reconsider, other than at a council meeting. Nobody has done that.

How did the item therefore, get on the agenda? We have no factual data that a council member asked for it to be on the agenda nor would it have been appropriate for it to be placed there without there having first been a motion and a majority vote to reconsider at a council meeting.

Notice that the agenda item will be to first decide whether to reconsider, then re-vote.

That's not how it's supposed to work.

Moreover, Curm's idea that it makes "perfect sense" for the Landmarks Commission to "go forward" with their power grab ordinance is ridiculous, since they don't decide that at this point. They already "went forward" and the council voted it down.

What should have happened is that a council member should have moved for reconsideration, then there would be a vote to reconsider. If a majority voted to reconsider, then, and only then would they schedule a public meeting and re-vote, not before.

This is all being done inappropriately. These council members, in letting these sorts of things go on like this, might as well be training Godfrey that he can do these sorts of things.

RudiZink said...

danny... hate to break it to you and everyone else...

Sometime during the last year the council MODIFIED Section 16 of the Council procedure to allow motions for reconsideration to occur AT THE SECOND MEETING after the pasage or denial of a new ordinace.

we apolopogise to our readers for not updating our posted council procedure rules.

On the other hand we'll say that making current council procedure public shouldn't be the job of Weber County Forum.

Why, we ask, can't the council just put up current council rules on the Ogden City website?

Curmudgeon said...

Danny:

You wrote: Moreover, Curm's idea that it makes "perfect sense" for the Landmarks Commission to "go forward" with their power grab ordinance is ridiculous, since they don't decide that at this point. They already "went forward" and the council voted it down.

Sorry, D, but I think you're quibbling over words. If the LC thinks going to a 55' limit along all of Historic 25th Street is a good idea [regardless of whether the Windsor developers are in or out], and changing the procedure for approving zoning exceptions in the future, then it makes perfect sense for them, or one of them, to request a reconsideration of the ordinance. That is what "going forward" would mean in this instance. That's all.

danny said...

OK. I yield the point about council procedure.

But it seems to me these are the issues:

1. Is the Windsor still on the table, and is this about them? If so, then then why are they not asking for a variance for their building, rather than a sweeping ordinance allowing a change in building heights for the whole street?

2. If the Windsor (Ogden Properties deal) is dead, then who needs this ordinance? If nobody wants to raise their building height, then what is the need for this ordinance at all, let alone the reason for all the ruckus?

3. Has the new offer for the Windsor (the one that does not rely on a new ordinance) been evaluated?

It seems there is something lurking below the surface here. What is the real reason for the frenzied attempt to pass this broad ordinance that takes away council review of building height? What is really going on here?

It seems prudent to vote "no" on reconsideration and "no" on the ordinance. If somebody wants to do something in the district, they can always come in with a request. A "no" vote certainly doesn't prevent that.

Indeed, if the council votes to override the mayor's veto of the IGA development, it should be clear to everyone that the council is certainly very interested in redevelopment and willing to work with people.

George K said...

As Curmudgeon stated, the ordinance in this issue affects the whole 25th Street Historic District, not just the Windsor Hotel.

Danny, I believe this is the reason for the frenzied push to adopt the ordinance -- since the Council meeting last Tuesday, I have learned that many of those who spoke at that meeting have their own ulterior motives/hidden agendas – they are just waiting for that ordinance to be approved, then they will also request changes that are now not allowable due to zoning.

It was evident in the letter from Ms. Murphy that the changes requested by Ogden Properties, LLC would change the Windsor Hotel's historical designation, but losing one building in the Historic District would not affect the designation for the Historic District. However, if there were enough buildings who lost their designations due to building changes, the District could lose its National Historic designation, and thus lose special considerations, historic tax credits for the owners and the District could lose its historic designation and millions of federal dollars. In light of this new information, a precedent would be set, and with the Council having no voice in zoning matters for the District, it is a very real probability that that would happen. Especially in view of the fact that the Landmarks Commission granted approval for certification for the Windsor when three other historic preservation agencies had made statements contradicting the stand the LC took.

In my opinion, it will be a mistake for the Council to allow a reconsideration vote for the following reasons: First and most importantly, the ordinance is a bad ordinance and should be allowed to stay unadopted, because it removes the Council from any further decisions involving zoning for the Historic District and it affects the whole Historic District, 2) The Council will appear weak and indecisive. 3) It will send the message to the public and organizations that the Council will cave in when challenged. 4) They doubt their own research, and information provided by their staff. 5) No new information has been presented to the Council to take different action, only accusations that they voted against the ordinance because they wish to hamper Ogden’s economic development, 6) Voting to change their vote, would only validate the false accusations made at the Council meeting Tuesday night.

Curmudgeon said...

GK wrote: the ordinance... removes the Council from any further decisions involving zoning for the Historic District and it affects the whole Historic District...

That... the Windsor aside, the 55 foot limit aside, all else aside... is reason enough to vote "nay" on the ordinance revision as it now stands.

Curmudgeon said...

GK:

Now, that said, seems to me the rest of your reasons --- #2 through #6 --- are not valid reasons for the Council to refuse the ordinance, provided they're convinced they made a mistake the first time round. It's their job to act in the best interests of the city on all matters that come before them. If they're convinced they made an error, then they ought to go ahead and fix it. That is not "caving." Worrying about "how it would look" is a pretty weak reason... none at all, really... for them not to act to correct what think is a mistake.

Nanny hater said...

Curmudgeon reminds me of the nanny of TV. There is virtually nothing he isn't a total expert on and there is nothing any one can say that he won't correct them on. And they are both incredibly boring.

George K said...

Curmudgeon,

I pointed out that NO new information haS been presented to the Council, and to change their vote without, does make them seem weak and indecisive. Those who spoke to the Council accused them of having hidden agendas and not being sincere about preserving the historic district and changing their vote without good reason would make it seem they were right.

Were you at the Council meeting?

Curmudgeon said...

Nanny:

Thanks, I appreciate the compliment. But I'm afraid you're wrong. There are many many things I am not only not a "total expert on," but that I know little or nothing about at all. Still, I appreciate the compliment.

Curmudgeon said...

GK:

You wrote: I pointed out that NO new information haS been presented to the Council, and to change their vote without, does make them seem weak and indecisive....Were you at the Council meeting?

1. No, I was not at the Council meeting. I work Tuesday nights this term.

2. And I said that I don't know... and I presume you don't either... what the council members may have learned via talks with people, mail, email, phone calls, etc. recently. Maybe nothing. Maybe much. But without knowing that, it's impossible to say for certain at this point that Mr. Stephens or the others have no new information. And in any case, the Council [if it comes to believe it made a mistake last time], should not refuse to correct that mistake out of fear of "looking bad." Fear of "looking bad" is a poor reason, ever, for elected officials to refuse to correct what they believe to be a mistake.

Ogden said...

This council does seem to care about the community but it is evident that Stephenson and Johnson are Godfrey puppets. I was very unimpressed with Stephenson's appeal for economic development. 25th Street is the core of the community and if they allow that to go with the developers, who sincerely will have zero emotional connection to the core of the city, then we can look forward to the whole city being more transient - yet with wealthier people. Sue Wilkerson may very well be the devil. I do think something much more major is going on - Godfrey knows something we don't and the fights are way too emotional and the attacks entirely too personal for this just to be about an ordinance. I believe the other five council members are savvy enough to do what it best.

Curmudgeon said...

In Re: Councilman Johnson

I recall, with some fondness, my former Councilman, Mr. Safsten. On occasion... not very often... I'd email Councilman Safsten regarding some public matter I was interested in, or asking him to reconsider some stand he'd taken. Mr. Saften took the time to reply. He'd thank me for contacting him, and answer my question, if I'd asked one, or explain why he disagreed with me, if he did.

Since Mr. Johnson became my Councilman, I've emailed him on public matters twice. Civil missives, both times. [I do not rant at elected officials.] And I received not a word in reply. Not so much as a generic "thank you for your email." Nothing. Dead silence.

Told that tale, comparing Safsten's way of dealing with constituent contacts, and Johnson's, to someone last night, who replied. "Johonson replies only to people who pay him for his time."

Don't know about that. But I do know Council members who ignore civil questions or comments from their constituents are not doing the job we... all of us... elect them to do.

Lionel said...

Curm

Betcha if you were a registered Godfreyite that Johnson would answer you! He has his priorities and they don't include non kool aide drinkers.

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