Zoning, food truck, noise issues, occupy council attention

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By Shelia Tomkins

The Guttenberg city council at its regular monthly meeting on May 14 tabled a zoning change request, gave temporary approval to a mobile food truck, considered park board recommendations and reviewed a proposed noise ordinance.

Mayor Bill Frommelt led councilmembers Mick Pierce, Austin Greve, Fred Schaub, Virginia Saeugling and Jane Parker through the evening's agenda; also on hand were city manager Denise Schneider and city attorney Michael Schuster.

Budget amendment

The council amended the current budget to reflect a $24,000 Community Development Block Grant refund as well as transfers in and out of various accounts, resulting in "a wash," according to the city manager. 

Zoning request

The council reviewed a requested zoning change from Ag to M-2 Industrial for the Don Schmitt property located off Acre Street, the former site of the Clinton Pallet Co. The matter first went before the Zoning Board, which recommended denying the request. Some council members expressed reluctance to do so without first seeing if the owner can find another access route to the property, and the council voted to table the matter. 

Mobile food truck

Erin Potter of Buenie Bottoms Grill asked the council for a special zoning exception to place a mobile food truck in the parking lot at The Guttenberg Motel a few days a week. She currently operates the truck in North Buena Vista on weekends. 

Patty Schwarz of The Guttenberg Motel spoke in favor of the request, who described the success of the Scratch Cupcakery food truck during recent visits to her property. "Food trucks are going forward," she said. "This is the future."

Council member Parker expressed concerns about the effects of a mobile food business might have on established restaurants in the community. "We have 19 businesses in town that serve food and pay taxes," she said. "Not that I don't think a food truck isn't a good idea — I think it would be more appropriate during a festival...As important as we think it is to keep the storefronts full, there are places where people could put in another food establishment if they feel there is money to be made." 

Business owner Mike Hefel said he had talked to other restaurant owners and said they do not have a problem with a new businesses "if it is a brick and mortar business."  He also expressed concern that a food truck along the highway would keep visitors from    going to the downtown area. 

Councilmember Pierce said, "I don't see a threat. I can't believe a vendor truck is going to put them out of business. It is a step forward. ...We are a dying town unless we open up to new ideas."

After additional discussion,  and a failed motion to grant the request, councilmember Saeugling made a motion to allow the truck on a trial basis for 60 days. The motion carried 4-1 with Parker casting the nay vote. 

The matter brought into focus a need to update city code to address zoning and permitting issues when deadling with mobile food trucks. The city zoning board recommended removing the mobile vendor regulation from the zoning ordinance. Attorney Schuster asked for council direction in drawing up an ordinance update, and the matter will be considered at the June 11 meeting.

Park board reommendations

Park board chair Mary Streich addressed the council to discuss the board's recommendations on tree removal at the Big Springs park area, and trash receptacles. Guttenberg Rotary Club has been assisting with improvements at Big Springs and has offered to pay for a portable toilet. The council approved the park board's recommendations on dead tree removal and trash receptacles. 

The site of the former Mary Waterman property in the park in downtown Guttenberg will be leveled as per a recommendation from the park board.

Noise ordinance

Mayor Frommelt introduced for discussion a sample ordinance he drafted to address excessive noise issues.  "I think it is something we need — standards to measure it against. It addresses a number of noise sources," he said.

The ordinance covers decibel levels and times of operation based on various zoning areas. The mayor said the ordinance would necessitate buying noise measuring devices for police cars. 

Councilmember Pierce expressed concerns about excessive noise from railroad engines parked within the city limits. Schaub said he wouldn't want a noise ordinance to hinder a local grain drying business, and Parker had concerns about snowblowers, as well as motorcycles that visit the community during special events. Council members will review the draft and further discuss the proposal at the next meeting.   

Street improvements

The council approved a list of city streets to be seal-coated this summer, and also approved low bids totalling approximately $93,000 for improvements on Miners Creek Road this season. A portion of the costs would be paid from this fiscal year's budget and the remainder from next year's budget. 

 Increase in late fees

Utility customers who are late with monthly payments will see an increase in fees attached to overdue accounts. Currently, late fees are 1.5% of all utility services. The council approved a change that would leave the electrical late fee at 1.5% as per state code, but raise others to 10%. 

Golf cart permit fee

Following up on an ordinance change initiated at the April meeting, the council gave final approval to lowering the golf cart permit fee from $100 to $25. The vote was 4-1 with Saeugling voting nay. The council’s consensus was that no refunds be issued to those who paid $100 for this season.

Street closing for school project

Kirk Lundberg of Estes Construction received council approval for temporary street closures on South River Park Drive to accomodate demolition and new construction at Clayton Ridge School.

The street directly in front of the 1903 building will be closed beginning June 4. After demolition of the building, half of the street will be closed in order to build the new entrance and commons area. A mobile fence will be used to guide traffic.

Freedom Rock

Stan Blair of Guttenberg gave a presentation on the Freedom Rock, a project he has initiated to have a patriotic painted boulder commissioned for Clayton County in 2019. An Iowa artist from Greenfield has a goal of placing Freedom Rocks in all of Iowa’s 99 counties. Blair said various local sites have been considered that meet the stipulations of the project, and that his first choice is the area at Limbeck Pond next to the Guttenberg swimming pool, which has high visibility, adjacent parking, electricity and a lighted flag. The council expressed support for the project and approved use of the site.

Other business

Payments totaling nearly $169,000 for the Garber Road bridge project were okayed.

Mason Bantz was approved as a volunteer firefighter.

The council okayed job descriptions for two city positions — water superintendent and electrical superintendent. Dan Pierce was approved for the water position, and Al Troester was approved for the electrical position.

Diane Bockenstedt received a waiver on connection with city sewer for new constrution off Acre Street.

Mandy Ludovissy of the Guttenberg Chamber of Commerce received council approval for Farmers Market, the parade route and street closures for the June 30 Stars and Stripes event, and street closures for German Fest. A request submitted by Jeff Olson was okayed for street closure for the June 16 Veterans Freedom Center event. 

The purchase of a new squad car and equipment was approved.

The council accepted the bid from Meyer Mechanical for $7,976 for an air conditioning unit for the council chambers.

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