Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bits And Pieces From Last Night's Emerald City Council Meeting

City Council Notes - 11/17/09

By Dan Schroeder

I arrived in the council chambers just after 6:00, so I missed the Board of Canvass meeting which took place at 5:50. I would assume that the vote was duly certified, and that there were no surprises in the final tally. I learned independently that Garner came out ahead of Garcia by 17 votes. Incidentally, all of the councilmembers-elect (Blair, Garner, and Van Hooser) were in attendance.

The council agenda began with a proclamation honoring Allen F. Hampton Jr. as the honorary mayor of Christmas Village. There followed a long list of appointments to various city committees: Board of Zoning Adjustment, Board of Building and Fire Code Appeals, Ogden Trails Network Committee, Landmarks Commission, Ogden Arts Committee, and Records Review Board. Of these, only the last was controversial with both Jeske and Wicks voting against the reappointment of Robert H. DeBoer.

DeBoer's reappointment had been on the agenda three weeks ago, but was pulled at the last minute. This may have been because I sent an email letter to the council the weekend before that meeting, explaining my experience with the Records Review Board and asking that DeBoer not be reappointed. For whatever reason, it was back on the agenda tonight and the motion carried with five in favor. Jeske raised the question of whether DeBoer had served longer than 10 years on the Records Review Board, in violation of the mayor's informal 10-year limit. The mayor's immediate response was that in that case he would favor finding someone new for the committee but he would still urge them to pass the motion. [Yes, he really did contradict himself that quickly.] In fact, the applicable ordinance prohibits anyone from serving more than two consecutive three-year terms. DeBoer served two terms from 1997-2003, then was reappointed in early 2007 and has now been reappointed through late 2012.

Following approval of some minutes, there was then a public hearing on a resolution awarding Arts Grants. The substance of the resolution was never explained (and I'm not up on the subject), but this was a lively item because a troupe of children in ballet costumes (Alice in Wonderland and Nutcracker) came and stood along either side of the dais while a citizen spoke on behalf of the grants. The resolution was approved.

Next was the petition to remove the stay limit for hotels and motels. One hotel/motel owner (possibly the petitioner) explained how they could really use the extra business from guests who wish to stay longer. But the Planning Department spoke against the petition and it was voted down 4-3 (if I recall correctly), so the stay limit remains in place.

Finally came public comments, during which three citizens spoke in favor of a 25th Street alignment for the proposed streetcar. The speakers were James Wilson (who recently wrote a letter to the editor on the subject), Iain Hueton (a member of the Planning Commission) and Mitch Moyes. Wilson reported on a meeting that he and other citizens had held this morning with a UDOT official, who reportedly stated that UDOT would not stand in the way of an alignment on Harrison Blvd. if that is the consensus of the community. Hueton pointed out the magnitude of this investment ("we don't throw around 9-digit numbers very often"), the potential for a streetcar to unite the two sides of Harrison, and the importance of involving the public in the decision.

In response, Mayor Godfrey insisted that he would favor an alignment on 25th Street but expressed skepticism that UDOT would make it feasible. He also claimed that there is time pressure to make a decision before the next federal funding cycle.

The council then adjourned into closed session to discuss pending litigation. I wasn't able to stay for the RDA meeting (with the decision over eminent domain in the River Project area) or the council work session (to discuss the golf course). However, Bill C. was there and intended to stay so perhaps he can fill us in.

Update 11/18/09 7:24 a.m.: The Salt Lake Tribune's Kristen Moulton confirms that Councilman Garcia has indeed been officially ousted from his Ward 1 seat:
Final count confirms Garcia lost Ogden seat
Who will be the first to comment?

Can anyone fill us in about the happenings with regard to eminent domain proceedings during last night's RDA meeting?

Bill C... Ferris?

30 comments:

Stephen M. Cook said...

...and that, kids, is why we read the WCF!

Conductor said...

A link to the Federal Transit Administration's website, including funding application guidelines and "deadlines":

http://www.fta.dot.gov/planning/planning_environment_5221.html

googlegirl said...

Live link:

FTA - New Starts Project Planning & Development

Dan S. said...

I wonder why there's nothing about the meeting in today's Standard-Examiner. Although I didn't actually see Mr. Schwebke at the meeting, I assumed that he or another reporter was lurking in a corner somewhere. Perhaps there'll be an article later in the week.

Def said...

So, UDOT appears to be open to a streetcar running along Harrison, and the Mayor for a more central city route? In my mind these were the two biggest obstacles of a more sensible route going through the core of the city. Why is UTA (and their consultants) favoring Washington Blvd/36th St?

Dan S. said...

Def,

I asked Mick Crandall of UTA that question several weeks ago. His response was essentially that UDOT has been a moving target in terms of their requirements on Harrison, and therefore he doesn't feel like he can make a reliable cost estimate for a Harrison alignment. Rather than pushing UDOT harder to nail down the cost, he was inclined to simply give up because he feels the 36th Street alignment is also workable.

Incidentally, Mr. Crandall also said that in all his many years of planning new UTA projects, he had never before encountered a situation where residents actually wanted a transit project to come through their neighborhood!

Def said...

Thanks, Dan. That is interesting. I'm not so sure the 36th street option is as workable as Mr. Crandall would like to think (maybe only in terms of cost estimates). Anyway, I see a lot of obstacles there. As far as residents wanting/not wanting a transit project coming through their neighborhood, there really hasn't been another streetcar project like this to adequately compare (as far as I know). It also goes to show what type of community we have here in Ogden. East Central Ogden residents, specifically, have for years been waiting for a catalyst to get things going in that area. The area is absolutely ripe for it. Hopefully this opportunity won't pass 'em by.

Dan S. said...

Def,

I agree that Mr. Crandall may very well be wrong about 36th Street. There are really two problems. First, there is no prospect of transit-oriented development on most of 36th Street so it will never generate the ridership that you would want for an expensive project like a streetcar. Second, it is a very congested street because it's the only east-west corridor for six blocks in either direction. This means the streetcar would be caught in traffic and delayed quite a bit during peak hours. (The assumption is that on 36th the streetcar would share the lane with automobiles.) Mr. Crandall may have some hard data that's relevant to one or both of these issues, but I haven't seen the data and there have been no public meetings since July.

def said...

Dan,
And those two problems are huge! I don't see anyway around them. It'll be interesting to see what hard data is found, I guess we'll see how creative UTA can be...

Ogdenite said...

It's important to remember that 36th Street was slated to be greatly widened years ago, including taking out a row of houses. That idea was killed at the last minute by a prominent city bureaucrat at the time (Robert Hunter) who lives on 36th Street. So the width of the street is not the issue you claim it is.

And we should remember that running a streetcar down Washington would stimulate that street just as it would 25th. So the real question is, where do you want the stimulus more?

Also, do you want Harrison cluttered with a street car, or Washington?

It is not as cut and dried as you would make it.

Conductor said...

Several Points:

1 - Streetcar ridership is the fundamental basis for any economic re-development. The 603 has an existing ridership base through the most densely populated urban area in all of Weber County. Addition of a streetcar along this corridor will catalyze preservation and restoration of this National Historic District, further fueling ridership. Washington Blvd. Is mostly commercial, and is unlikely to generate its own ridership until TOD's can be built along the corridor.

2 - Increased ridership from the Trolley District, and increased home-ownership in the area provides a direct consumer base for downtown businesses. A washington Blvd. Corridor spreads a smaller ridership base across a much larger commercial area, thereby minimizing economic impact.

3. Economic development potential should include such considerations as Heritage Tourism. We are in the process of working towards a national railroad museum in Ogden, attracting more tourism to the area, and providing additional activities for visitors. A 25th Street alignment capitalizes on a National Historic District, while still connecting the downtown to the east bench. A 36th Street alignment only does the latter.

get er' done said...

Hey Dan,
The paper was not there, because the mayor didn't call them to let them know that there would not be a fist fight. No fight no reporters. Sorry.

Conductor said...

Also, I'd rather have Harrison "cluttered" with streetcars, making the corridor a community/pedestrian gathering place - as opposed to the Weber County "Belt-Loop" that UDOT has planned.

penny pincher said...

Ogdenite, you said: "So the width of [36th] street is not the issue you claim it is."

There may have been plans to widen 36th Street in the past, but there are no such plans now. Perhaps such an option should be considered--but it would add quite a bit to the cost of the project. Right now, from UTA's viewpoint, the only advantage to 36th Street is the (assumed) lower cost. Add in the cost of widening the street and that advantage vanishes.

made up name said...

Home ownership should be nearly sacred.
We are fundamentally opposed to throwing people out of their homes, homes where grandparents welcome grandkids and sit by the crackling fire sharing faded photo albums busting with pictures of decades of warm family times.

We support a progressive city where automobiles are a rare sight; a city where once you purchase and sweat for the perfect place to dwell, a committee of whoever cannot arbitrarily steal your hard-won memories.

We support removing cars from 25th street, altogether.

Moroni McConkie said...

Made Up Name: As a part-time resident of Historic 25th Street, I would be glad if sometime in the future there were enough hustle and bustle on it to justify a Top of Utah version of the Santa Monica Third Street Promenade.

But in our present dismal economy, such a scenario seems eons away. I'd fear that banning cars right now would kill every inch of progress painstakingly made in the past 20 years.

My sense is that the proposed streetcar should run on 25th and disgorge as many paying customers as possible. Ogden City knows that 25th Street is its chief claim to fame and ought to support all possible means of getting people there.

wildcat said...

Seems to me folks are talking about different things here. the question is how to get from FrontRunner to WSU/McKay Dee. The 25th v 36th St issue has to do with where we go east of Washington, not west of Washington.

Curmudgeon said...

Wildcat:

No, the question is not how to get people from Frontrunner to WSU/McKay Dee. That is a question, but not the only one, and I don't think it's the primary one with respect to the best alignment for rail transit between those two points. Making that the question sort of assumes that most riders will be traveling point to point downtown to WSU/McKay Dee and back. As a frequent rider of the 603, I don't think that's true. Most riders over the 603's route do not get on at the Transit Center and get off at WSU [or the reverse]. Most travel between other points than just those two.

And any street car alignment that considers only or even primarily moving people between WSU and the Transit Center necessarily abandons what should be a major goal of the street car line: connecting History 25th Street to residential areas of Ogden to provide easy, comfortable and convenient transit downtown for residents.

I think MM above has got it right. Historic 25th Street is what Ogden has that makes it unique, that differentiates it from other burgs with shopping centers and malls. And any transit and development plan that does not have at its heart the promotion of Historic 25th Street would be a big and very costly mistake.

Which is one reason the 36t Street alignment makes very little sense.

wildcat said...

Curm, sure getting from FrontRunner to WSU is not the question. OK. But those are going to be the two points. So the question is what route is best between those two points. That's what I was getting at. And to that end, the discussion of serving Historic 25th, which sits between Wall and Washington has nothing to do with whether or not we use 25th or 36th between Washington and Harrison. So, let me put it another way. The main difference in terms of the proposed routes is about how we get from Washington to Harrison. As far as I know, no one has proposed a route that would go down Wall to 36th and then up to Harrison, have they?

Dorrene Jeske said...

Rudi asked how the eminent domain vote went last night – it was 5/2 for supporting the action with Jeske and Wicks voting against it and Garcia, Gochnour, Johnson, Stephens and Stephenson voting for eminent domain. Johnson made the motion to adopt eminent domain action against two property owners and Stephens seconded it.

In justifying my vote against the Planning Commission's recommendation, I said, "I want to see the River Front project be successful, but I wish we had been able to know for sure that we have a developer who is ready to start construction when this whole mess is cleared up. Eminent Domain goes against my grain. To me it is un-American and goes against the American way of doing things -- to take someone's property and sell it to a business who will profit from it." Chair Wicks said that she felt the same way that it was wrong to use eminent domain for economic development.

Def ,

You said...”So, UDOT appears to be open to a streetcar running along Harrison, and the Mayor for a more central city route? In my mind these were the two biggest obstacles of a more sensible route going through the core of the city. Why is UTA (and their consultants) favoring Washington Blvd/36th St?”

The Mayor has been to most of the alternative analysis committee meetings and forced the Washington Blvd-36th St. corridor on everyone. That is why UTA and the consultants are of the same opinion as the Mayor. He held up the alternative analysis process for three years after the 2005 study was completed, trying to get his gondola as the mass transit system for Ogden. You’re right, the Mayor is the biggest obstacle to Ogden having the street car system.

(contunued in Next message)

Dorrene said...

(continued mesage, part2)

Dan S.,

You said: “Second, it is a very congested street because it's the only east-west corridor for six blocks in either direction. This means the streetcar would be caught in traffic and delayed quite a bit during peak hours. (The assumption is that on 36th the streetcar would share the lane with automobiles.)”

If that is the case, there are at least two major drawbacks to the 36th St. corridor. 1. We won’t have the ridership needed for success because it is not the corridor indicated by the public (the people riding) at the open house six months ago; and 2. If there isn’t the advantage of a dedicated lane, the major benefit of bypassing the stop and go of rush-hour traffic would be lost and therefore people would be less likely to take the street car – in effect, the 36th St. corridor would very effectively kill the street car.

Ogdenite,

You said: “And we should remember that running a streetcar down Washington would stimulate that street just as it would 25th. So the real question is, where do you want the stimulus more?”

There could be some transit-oriented development on Washington, but after attending the “Rail-Evolution” in San Francisco in 2008, and in Boston last month and several mobile workshops which took us to cities that had planned TODs where we could see the benefits and hear the stories of these cities growth, I am inclined to believe that Conductor has it right when he said, “Increased ridership from the Trolley District, and increased home-ownership in the area provides a direct consumer base for downtown businesses. A Washington Blvd. Corridor spreads a smaller ridership base across a much larger commercial area, thereby minimizing economic impact.”

Which indicates a greater and more beneficial economic impact for Ogden and especially for the central city area.

Also, a corridor from North Ogden along Washington Blvd. through Riverdale to Roy is on the drawing board for a future street car to connect these cities. Washington Blvd. will have opportunities for transit-oriented developments and economic growth, but it will be later rather than sooner.

I think the Trolley District is more dependent on and needs TODs more to accomplish some of its goals as detailed in its neighborhood plan than other areas in Ogden. We have put millions of dollars into revitalizing and cleaning up the Trolley District during Godfrey’s administration and the economic development that would occur with the street car would reinforce and complement these efforts. I don’t know why the Mayor cannot see that there are great advantages to having the street car corridor run east on 25th St.

Dan S. said...

Regarding the eminent domain vote: Could someone fill us in on which properties are affected, and on whether this is for the river restoration project or for the proposed developments away from the river?

Jennifer Neil said...

Yes, I be wondering too which property(ies) are involved -- from the language here (I didn't attend the meeting) it seems it was targeting a specific property -- perchance is one of them the Jensen property which was in dispute a couple years ago, when they wouldn't sell?

hmmm?

TLJ

me mouth is open! said...

I am amazed that the idea of a street car or trolley is to move residents off the East Bench down to 25th St.

There is nothing on 25th Street to entice a person down more than twice a month.

This idea is even more idiotic than I thought.

Curmudgeon said...

Me Mouth:

As an east-bencher who visits 25th Street much more often than that, as does my wife, I say you're wrong.

disgusted said...

relative to the eminent domain vote garcia gochnour stephens really disappointed me. these council members had a chance to do the right thing and didnt. shame on you all.

althepal said...

Here's a little serenade for Comrades Garcia, Gochnour and Stephens:

The Communist Internationale

Dan S. said...

Today's S-E article answers the question that I posed yesterday afternoon. Eminent domain has been approved for three properties in the River Project area. None of these three properties are adjacent to the river itself, so this purely an "economic development" issue, having nothing to do with restoration of the river.

At this point the obvious unanswered question is "Why now?". Is a developer ready to start building in this area as soon as these properties are acquired? If so, who is it and what will be built? Also, what assurance do we have that the development will actually occur?

ozboy said...

The city still has to pay a "fair market value" to the owners for this property. Where is that money coming from? The one, of two owners, in question said that is all she wanted anyway. So why didn't the city just give her a fair price to begin with? I definitely smell a Godfreyism in the middle of this deal. I would like to see the numbers and past offers between the city and these owners.

Curmudgeon said...

Oz:

You wrote: "So why didn't the city just give her a fair price to begin with?"

Almost certainly because either the people Mr. Lesham is fronting for [if they are the putative buyers] or the city acting as a purchasing agent on their behalf did not agree with the owners about what would constitute a fair price.

I presume the money will be coming from the Lesham-group. But with Godfrey's Gang That Counldn't Shoot Straight ramrodding this operation, who the hell knows? I mean, we have in office a mayor who apparently thinks a gondola from downtown to McKay Dee Hospital would be a dandy public transit option for Ogden City.

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