Monday, February 28, 2011

Carbondale Property Prices

In a conversation lat week, the number of empty lots in Carbondale came up and the person I was discussing this with pointed out a major reason for the number of empty properties: pricing.

A large number of these empty lots are owned by people who do not live in Carbondale. They have either moved away or inherited them from relatives. The property is paid for, so aside from maintenance and property taxes, they have no costs associated with them. The owners can therefore sit on them, waiting to sell to someone willing to meet their price, and in most cases, that price is way too high for a prospective purchaser.

According to the person I spoke with, who is in a position to know, owners are asking $10,000 to $15,000 for lots the city estimates a value of $1500 to $2000. Demanding a price premium of 10 times the estimated value of your property is not going to entice any buyers, but since the owner has only minimal costs associated with it, there's no incentive for them to reduce the price.

Friday, February 25, 2011

More Meetings

Hey, there're several meetings next week if you feel civic minded:

Carbondale HR Commission Non-Violent Carbondale Project (now there's a mouthful) meets March 3 at 5 p.m. in room 103 of the Civic Center.

The Housing and Neighborhood Action Group Wed. March 2 at 5 p.m. someplace in the Civic Center (my guess would be room 103).

The Liquor Advisory Board meets Monday Feb 28 at 5:30, with nothing apparently on the agenda.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sustainability Commission

Either it's a slow news day or there is more interest in the chicken ordinance than I thought, as both Asst. City Manager Kevin Beatty and Councilman Joel Fritzler reported gettting contacted by various papers and television stations regarding it.

Meeting started with an update on the Koppers wood treating site cleanup, which is progressing glacially slowly, mainly due to continued revisions in the plan by the EPA. Then the commission moved on to the fun stuff, the chickens.

One local landlord showed up to argue against the ordinance, saying that the provision not allowing renters to keep chickens discriminated against renters and that chickens should be treated like dogs and required to get re-licensed every year, rather than the one time license proposed in the ordinance. When the commission asked if she would be OK with changing the ordinance to allow renters to keep chickens with landlords having the ability to say "No Chickens" as they can with pets, I found that renters abuse landlords horribly, as she indicated that, despite her policies, renters brought pets into her properties all the time and it was almost impossible to get them out once they did and she expected the same thing to happen with chickens. Both provisions remained in the ordinance, however, and it passed. The commission will send it on to city council, hopefully to appear on the March 22 agenda.

The meeting ended with after a discussion of bike paths and trails in Carbondale. Beatty mentioned several grants the city had applied for, however many of them required matching funds, which the city does not have available, despite the $500,000 included in the Saluki Way tax proposal. The commission decided to look furthen into sources of funding for bike paths and the feasibility of creating one running along the railroad tracks from North Oak to the University.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Business Moving (kinda)

Really putting a fork to Booby's (as in it's done), the Bike Surgeon is moving next door into the old Booby's location. Moving into the Bike Surgeon's old digs is an as yet unnamed tattoo parlour. That makes three tattoo shops in downtown that come to mind.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Election Results

Polls close in approximately 10 minutes. Results posted as they come in:

7:55: Results for precincts 2, 6, 12, 26 &27 trickling in.

8:13 Results from all precincts except those at the Civic Center and SIUC Student Center coming in.
8:26 Looks like either Ritzel or Haynes will not move on to the general election. With 100% of the precincts reporting (but not counted), Maroney and Fritzler are within 1/2% of each other for the lead, while Ritzel trails Haynes by 3/4 of a percent.

8:29 with 100% of the precincts reporting, here are city council primary election results:
Write-in Votes 15 0.31%

8:31And here are the mayoral results:


8:34 Looks like Brent Ritzel will not move onto the general election for mayor and:

are out of the city council race. That's all folks.

Election Turnout

Looks like it will be pretty light for the primaries. When I stopped by my polling place this morning, the workers said they had only seen about half a dozen people so far. If you are curious, you can see results as they come in here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Cabin by the Pond Hearing

Sat in on the Planning Commission's hearing for a rezoning request by Ton Egert for his property on Springer Ridge Road. Interesting look at the zoning process. For the past five years, Egert had three cabins on the property which he rented out for short term use. He recently discovered that his property was zoned for agricultural use not for rental/commercial use so he had a rezoning for not only those three cabins but for three additional cabins he wished to build. When asked during the hearing, Egert said his reasons for requesting the rezoning were ignorance of the original zoning restrictions and a need for the cabin rentals to provide retirement income.

The owners of the property adjoining his testified against the rezoning, saying they were willing to live with the existing cabins but opposed any additional. They had problems with cabin renters wandering over on to their property and, while the renters were always polite when told they were trespassing, still found it perturbing. Also, they felt the turnoff onto their and Egert's properties from Springer Ridge Road was already dangerous and the additional traffic generated by the new cabins would increase the hazard.

After listening to both sides and questioning them (a lot of questions coming from commission member Lance Jack to Carol Burns, one of the adjacent property owners, regarding her reasoning for opposing the rezoning, which would make it more difficult for Egert to run his rental business), the commission voted on two separate motions, one rezoning the property for the three existing cabins, which was approved, and one rezoning it for the three existing and three proposed, which was defeated. The question then moves onto the city council next month, with no guarantee that council will follow the commission's recommendations.

Friday, February 18, 2011

China Express

Longtime Strip business China Express will get an exterior facelift probably starting in May. Similar to the exterior remodeling of Harbaugh's Cafe last year put together by Carbondale Main Street, the remodel will include new exteriors on both the Illinois Ave. and south sides of the building, new door and awning, and even a new logo. Though the owners want to get started ASAP, construction probably won't start until May, when fewer students, China Express's main customers, are around.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Icebox Bar and Grill

Sat in on a meeting Lance Jack and Meghan Cole (of Carbondale Main Street) had with Kevin Kirkwood, the owner of the Icebox Bar and Grill, today. Got some background on Kirkwood and the bar/restaurant's operation. Christopher is an A.J. graduate from SIUC and owned the Urban Wear store located on West Walnut (where Sew a Lot is now) for a couple of years. He also owns the Illusions barber shop next door to that location. He rented the Spotlight Bar and Grill building (owned by Laurel Weiderman) last October and has slowly been working remodeling it along with his partner Bryan Blackburn, funding the remodeling out of his savings. Opening day is scheduled for tomorrow, Feb 18th. The Icebox does not have a liquor license yet, though one has been applied for, and Kirkwood says he has been told the city will not take action on it until after the upcoming elections. The business carries both dram shop insurance (thought it cannot currently sell liquor) and $2 million in liability.

Hours of operation are 11-2 and 4 p.m. to 2 a.m, with only appetizers served after 10 p.m. Specialty of the house is wings with an assortment of hot sauces. Christopher says his hot sauce selection will start where Buffalo Wild Wings ends. One of the cooks at the Icebox is the former owner of the Spotlight, a good chef but not a great businessman. The other staff consists of 3 additional cooks, 4 waitresses and 5 security. SIUC RSOs will be able to rent out part of the restaurant for events for $900, fro 10 p.m to 2 a.m., with only people with an SIUC ID allowed to attend and no liquor (or even gum) allowed. Customers will have to park in the limited parking at the restaurant or city parking lots. He plans on stationing one security person by the Verison/ Frontier parking lot to direct customers to park in an approved parking space.

Regarding the murder that took in the Verizon parking lot place after an event at the Icebox, Kirkwood says it took place after a wing eating contest at the restaurant and that a number of participants in the fight were people who had not been allowed entry into the restaurant. I have heard from other sources that the event was extensively advertised throughout Carbondale via Facebook, Twitter and flyers. According to him, a number of people had parked cars in the Verizon and when trucks showed up to tow them, tempers flared and the fight broke out, involving both people exiting the restaurant and those who had not gained admission. Since the fight was not on his property, he told his security not to get involved and called the police immediately.

Since the night of the murder, he has run approximately 8 more events, all from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. with no fights and only one argument between a couple of women. The police have showed up during most of those events but have not cited the business for any violations, at least none that I have found reported by the Carbondale Police. The events have been pretty quiet as I have only noticed one taking place about 2 weeks ago.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

PLanning Commission

meets this evening at 7 p.m. in room 108 of the Civic Center. Here's the agenda.

City Council Essays

In case you missed it, last week's Carbondale Times had a set of 900 word essays from the 16 city council candidates on their motivations, qualifications and views of the city. At least they got essays from 13 of the candidates. Much as they did with the questionnaire sent out by the Shawnee Green party, Lance Jack, Rich Jackson and Earl Czajkowski opted not to submit an essay.

Don Monty's main qualification is his 35 years of service as a city employee, ending as Asst. City manager. He doesn't offer any specific programs to solve Carbondale's problems, referring to the Comprehensive Plan as a guide.

Candle Wester-Mittan has only lived in C'dale for 4 years, employed in the SIUC Law Library. Her interest in local/regional politics dates to back last year's election. She believes she brings "a new voice and new perspectives", wanting to positively contribute to the community. No specific recommendations, though.

Lee Fronabarger has been active in the community for a number of years, currently on the Planning commission and on advisory boards for a number of civic organizations. He actually makes specific proposals, calling for the relaxation of Carbondale liquor ordinances.and insituting foot and bike patrols by police in certain parts of town.

Mike Riley manages the local Sherwin-Williams store since 2004. He believes the town is a good place to raise a family and would like to focus on encouraging alternative modes of transportation, i.e. making the city more bike friendly. He also advocates beautification of the Strip and is the only candidate to drop Spanish into his essay.

Montana Goodman has lived in the 'dale for 1 year and is the only SIUC student running. Originally planning to stay for only 1 semester, she now doesn't expect to "leave anytime soon". She wishes to bring the student point of view to the council and would encourage the city to offer internships to SIUC and JALC students.

Hugh Williams, along with John Holt, is running because he feels the city has not shown enough fiscal responsibility in past actions. Two things Williams especially wants to accomplish are repealing the recently instituted property tax and giving the Human Relations Commission subpoena power, empowering it to investigate misconduct by city employees.

As mentioned above, John Holt is not happy with the city's spending, believes the city is business and development unfriendly and that the council has passed ordinances "where the council abdicates it power to the mayor to make deals on its behalf" and has made too many decisions with a 4-3 council vote, rather than striving for consensus.

Another ex-city employee, Tom Grant (former building inspector and division manager) wants to ensure the city continues to provide a high level of services and seek out tenants for the under-utilized industrial park properties, utilizing the student population in the process. Grant also wants to implement and incorporate renewable energy systems and green roofing downtown to continue the "Cool Cities Initiative".

Jane Adams, much like Fronabarger, has been active in the community for a number of years and is retired from SIUC. Adams believes, like Don Monty, that the Comprehensive Plan serves as a good guidepost for the future of the community. Among other items, she wishes to create a non-profit housing redevelopment corporation to renovate and build affordable housing, relax restrictions on beer and alcohol sales, and develop parks, including dog and skateboard parks.

Jerrold Hennrich is a student at SIUC and serves in the Illinois National Guard. He has lived in the city since 2005 and finds it "a wonderful place to live" and has a "sense of duty to the community". His essay doesn't cite any specific proposals, aside from cleaning up and maintaining the Strip.

Janet Donoghue works as the development director for the Fuller Dome. She says that a number of her friends wished to put down roots in the community but, due to the lack of jobs, had to leave the area, so economic development and livability are high on her agenda. As an active organizer in the community and a mother of a young child, she feels she brings a unique perspective to city problems.

Craig Anz is a professor of architecture at SIUC and active with the Hickory Lodge Task Force and on the board of Carbondale Main Street. He doesn't advance any specific proposals, calling for more empowerment and involvement by city residents in bettering downtown.

Finally, Jessica Bradshaw, works at SIUC and is active in a number of civic organizations s well, including CAPSOIL and Non-violent Carbondale. She wishes to make Carbondale a more livable and sustainable community by revitalizng downtown and supporting local non-profit organizations such as I Can Read and Keep Carbondale Clean. Like Adams, she would like to see the community create a dog park, however, Bradshaw advocates converting the old football field on the west side of town into one.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Blockbuster Closing

You may have seen the huge banner advertising the Carbondale Blockbuster's closing in the near future. From what I have heard, no deep discounts on anything until the last few days before the closure. From what I hear, this closure is only incidentally tied to the 900+ closings nationally announced by the company. The landlord reportedly increased the rent significantly for the location and the company decided revenues did not justify the additional cost.

Yep, that whole strategy of increasing rent to cause a video store to close down to re-rent the location for more worked so for Hollywood Video on C'dales West side

Sunday, February 13, 2011

C'dale Business

Apparently I spoke too soon about the Veach Short Stop behind University Mall. They now have a sign up in the window announcing "We are open!" So there is life in the place yet.

On the Icebox Bar and Grill front, they now have a sign up on the awing in front of the building No indication as to what the next step is though.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Businesses Closed

Looks as if the Veach Short Stop behind University Mall has shut its doors. Most of the shelves are empty and there's a For Sale sign along the road.

The Johnny B's Pro Lube on the West Side has had a "closed for remodeling" sign up for over a month now. Given that there has been no sign of said remodeling taking place, I'd bet a "closed" sign is much more appropriate.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Preservation Commission

The Preservation Commission meets this Monday at 7 p.m. in the Civic Center, room 103. On the agenda, considering the appropriateness of a sign identifying the Town Square and the 2010 Historic Preservation Awards. Guess Home Rentals won't be up for one of those.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Council Candidates Meet and Greet

Just got back from the League of Women Voters Meet & Greet for the city council candidates. Good turnout as I counted about 50 interested voters there over the course of the hour I spent there. Mayoral candidates Joel Fritzler, Steven Haynes and Brent Ritzel made appearances as well. Did not speak much with council candidates Jane Adams, Don Monty, Tom Grant, Lee Fronabarger or Lance Jack since they are fairly well known, due to their activities in the community, instead talking with Jessica Bradshaw, John Holt, Montana Goodman, Earl Czajkowski, Jerrold Hennrich, Hugh Williams and Candle Wester-Mitten. Missed talking with Craig Anz, Michael Riley and Rich Jackson.

City Council

Caught most of last night's city council meeting (thought I did miss the section of the meeting wherein I got appointed to the city's sustainability commission). The warrants got passed with minimal discussion with questions only about Duncan Associates as a consultant for the Zoning Ordinance update and extending the city's contrat with Marion Pepsi-Cola Bottling Companies.

The council then passed a series of resolutions commending Danny Piquard, Charles Vaught and Janet Vaught (yes, they are married) on their service to the city and congratulating them on retirement.

The new order of business, consideration of community and economic development organization funding requests should have been pretty short, since it typically just acknowledges that the city has received these requests, with the actual presentations occurring at the March council meeting. Someone forgot to tell the organizations that though, as Randy Osborne from the Boys and Girls Club launched into a full fledged presentation, complete with letters of support from the community.

After this, 90% of the orgnazations that had submitted funding requests made a presentation to the councils, cumulating in a 15 minute long presentation from Attucks Community Services that the mayor finally interrupted, asking why the organization sought $153,000 in funding when it still owed the city two months in rent and had only received $35,000 in rent and cash last year. The presentation then descended into a mild argument between the Attucks representative and the mayor regarding what what appropriate for discussion during the presentation. Under prodding from Councilmen Haynes and McDaniel who pointed out Mayor Cole planned to direct $150,000 to the school systems for a summer math and reading tutoring program, the mayor agreed to revisit funding for Attucks and the I CAN READ program, both of which had been zeroed out in the proposed funding budget.

Council went into closed session about 9 p.m.


The Sierra Club has its monthly meeting tomorrow night at 7:30. The meeting topic is bats:

February 10, 7:30PM- "Everything You Should Know About Bats" at the Carbondale Township meeting room, 217 E. Main St. George Feldhamer, Zoology Professor and Director of the SIU Environmental Studies Program, will give us this illustrated talk. Learn about the life history of bats, the importance of bats to humans and our ecosystems, and the threats that bats are facing now. Professor Feldhamer is curator of the mammal collection at SIUC and has 33 years of experience teaching upper-division courses in mammalogy and game management. His research has focused exclusively on mammalian populations, ecology, and management; biology of introduced deer; and endangered species of rodents and bats.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Candidate Meet & Greet

From an email sent by Jane Adams:

The League of Women Voters is sponsoring two "Meet and Greet" events this week - Wednesday for City Council candidates; Thursday for Mayoral candidates.

Sixteen people are seeking election to 3 City Council seats, and 5 people are seeking election to Mayor. It's a crowded field!

City Council Candidates
Wednesday, Feb. 9, 7:00-8:30 p.m. at the Civic Center. (Candidates will be seated at tables. Voters may meet/speak individually to as many candidates as they wish.)

Mayoral candidates
Thurs., Feb. 10, 7:00-8:30 p.m. Eurma Hayes Center, 441 E. Willow.
(Candidates will be seated at tables. Voters may meet/speak individually to as many candidates as they wish.)

Monday, February 7, 2011

City Council Meeting

City Council meets tomorrow night. Not much exciting on the agenda but expect to see council candidates Lance Jack and Don Monty make several comments on agenda items as has been their wont at the past few council meetings.

Friday, February 4, 2011

IceBox Bar

Apparently the Spotlight Bar and Grille in the 200 block of West Main has quasi reopened as the Icebox and is hosting after hours parties again. Just an accident waiting to happen.

Well, That Was Fast...

Looks like LilyWhite Designs, the Christian themed fashion store, that opened last fall in the space previously occupied by Two Doves Photography at 211 W. Main, has moved out. The retail space is bare and a sign in the window reads: Gallery HQ For Rent. From the tone of the owner's latest blog post, the retail storefront may just have been a three month pop up store to test the waters.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mayoral Candidate Forum

After the LAB meeting, I got to catch the five candidates for mayor in their first open forum. Nothing much surprising happened and no one knocked themselves out of the race, though Brent Ritzel didn't do himself any favors by strongly advocating a tax on plastic and paper bags to the group of about a hundred onlookers.

Saluki Way tax--When asked if they would look for ways to repeal it, everyone except Fritzler said they supported keeping it, with Haynes and Goldman pointing to the 400 construction jobs the complex brought to the community and the increase sales in restaurants on game nights. Ritzel appeared to support it but was was lukewarm at best. Maroney came out strongest: "It's a done deal. Get over it."

All five candidates supported eliminating restrictions on liquor sales by grocery stores, saying that the current restrictions held back free enterprise.

None of the other responses really made a strong point. Since it was held at the Boys and Girls Club, a couple of the questions dealt with the city and education. All of the cnadidates pointed out that, while they as mayor would support education, the school system was separate from the city and there wasn't really much they could do about Carbondale schools.

All of the candidates made much of their managerial, business and experience in government. Fritzler appeared to notice the emphasis on business experience in the other candidate's opening statements as he played up his more in his closing statement.

Saw city council candidates Jane Adams and Don Monty in the audience and had the opportunity to speak with Tommy Hamilton, who is running for a seat on District 95's school board. He wants to see more parental and community involvement in the schools and apparently has been quite active with the school system as a parent.

LAB Meeting

Caught most of the Liquor Advisory Board meeting tonight. The vote was pretty perfunctory on granting the Fair Days request for Carbondale Main Street's Wine and Art Fair, with only one question from a board member regarding whether the designation had been granted in the past Maybe it is just me being old and crotchety but the gentleman representing CMS left his baseball cap on while he made the request to the board. I figure, if you are making a request from a city organization, common courtesy would have you remove the cap during the proceedings.

Things got a little more interesting during the quarterly reports from the fire and police departments. Seems the fire department has made a dozen checks of the Cali/Copper Dragon/Pinch Penny area during the past quarter, much higher than other bars in the city. Additionally, Chief O'Guinn reported that Pinch Penny has had 84 alcohol related arrests during the past half year, four times more than any other bar in the city and well on their way to passing the 119 arrests there during the previous year.

This struck the LAB as so significant they they will send a letter requesting the owners of Pinch Penny to appear before the Board to explain the high numbers of arrests and their plans for reducing the nunber of infractions.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Brent Ritzel Questionnaire

Finally got around to looking at Brent Ritzel's responses to the Shawnee Green Party's questionnaire. Ritzel goes in to much detail in his responses, discussing at length what he sees as the three most pressing issues facing the city: quality of life, economic development and a sustainable community, and increasing the economic well being for all residents. However, there's scant detail on how he would achieve these.

In response to how to solve Carbondale's revenue shortfalls, he proposes placing a tax on plastic and paper shopping bags and utilizing the Comprehensive Plan to increase efficiencies and reduce wast in city operations. His other responses alll relect those in the first question as he desires increasing the quality of life for residents as well as making the community more sustainable. His plan for accomplishing this derived extensively from further implementation of the Carbondale Comprehensive Plan.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Winter Weather

The city sent out this press release:

Reports from the National Weather Service have placed Carbondale on the fringe of bad winter weather, with the possibility of rain, freezing rain, ice and/or snow. Although the weather forecast remains uncertain, City staff will continue to monitor the temperatures and types of precipitation. Resources will be deployed as necessary based on roadway conditions, power outages, downed power lines or tree limbs, etcetera. The City's trucks have had been fitted with snow plows and are prepared to be loaded with road salt and cinders if necessary. Other equipment such as generators, chain saws and backhoes are also ready to handle other weather emergencies as needed.
The City has been in touch with the utility service providers and will monitor any outtages or emergencies in cooperation with the local managers.
Motorists are asked to use caution when driving, especially on side streets and over bridges. Those persons that do not need to travel are asked to remain at home until the streets are cleared.
The City appreciates your understanding.