Friday, August 30, 2013

This Is Carbondale

If you haven't seen the "This Is Carbondale" video touted at the last City Council meeting, it is playing on the wall at the Civic Center.  Or you can just watch it here.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Student Housing Oversupply

Oversupply of student housing is a problem not just in Carbondale but builders of student housing nationwide have significantly overbuilt, leaving about 51,000 rooms empty nationwide, vacancy rate of about 6.7%.  In addition, student landlords have cut rents about 5% over the past year to fill empty rooms.

Makes me glad the council decided not to issue the special use permit to allow ground floor apartments in the downtown area. By all means let them build if they want but given the over-optimist view of the student housing market most developers have, it seems short sighted to elimiate sales tax generating retail space in favor of non-tax generating residential space, especially when there is no overwhelming need for more student housing. 

Granted, analysts believe the student market will grow to absorb the oversupply of student housing over time and much of the new housing is the "modernization of product that was neglected for decades", but Carbondale has seen a lot of new units added on in the past few years and we still haven't seen enough growth in the student market to absorb them yet.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Business Friendly Council Members

Struck me as I watched the voting at last night's city council meeting that of the current council membership, only Lance Jack currently runs a business.  All of the other council members are either retired (as far as I know) or work for the university., though Jessica Bradshaw did run Rosetta Bookstore for a couple of years before closing it.  This likely influences the way they vote as, if I recall correctly, they were the only two to vote to support all of the changes before council last night including the failed rezoning attempt for Giant City Heating and AC.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Liveblogging City Council

Just for grins, liveblogging the city council meeting tonight.

Well maybe not.  The live feed from council does not appear to be braodcasting over cable.

7:12 Listening to the meeting livestreaming over the interwebs.  Currently discussing Curbside's application for an A2 liquor license.  Applicants plan to run minivans to transport customers to the restaurant and have two investors behind them.

7:18 Jane Adams is questioning the Curbside applicants extensively about discrepancies between the original application and what they currently say.  Then Lee Fronabarger questions about proposed hours. Applicants say they don't plan to stay open later than midnight.

7:19  Adams still concerned about financing behind the operation.

7:20  Curbside applicants say they will run a significantly different operation than Icebox or Jay's. One of their husbands had worked as a consultant for the previous owner but left after a month after seeing how the operation was run.

7:24  Adams still concerned about  financing.  Mayor Fritzler points out that restaurants have a high failure rate and applauds the applicants for the risk they are taking.

7:26 Jessica Bradshaw asks for further info on parking. Applicants say they plan to have customers park in municipal parking, pick them up and transport them to the restaurant, then return them to their car when finished dining.

7:28  Applicants say they will maintain a family environment.  Fritzler says he is glad they are going on record with this as the city will keep a very, very close eye on the location.

7:29  Application is approved with Adams the sole "No" vote.

7:32  New Kahala Fast Food up now, applying for a liquor license.  Don Monty asks what time the restaurant will close.  Applicant responds "11 p.m.".

7:33  New Kahala application passes unanimously.

7:34  Now reviewing fourth quarter liquor violation reports.  Don Monty, of course, wants to go into more detail.

7:56  Still discussing liquor violation reports.
7:57  Unanimous vote to approve the liquor violation reports.

7:59  Voting on class F1 liquor license for Carbondale Main Street's Welcomefest on Sept 14. Some concern about waiving the fee as has been done for similar events in the past as that was not part of the original request.

8:06  Amending the motion to waive the fee for the liquor license.  Approved.

8:07  Amended motion approved unanimously as well.

8:13  AND they're back..... (after a break to change from the LCC to the City Council).

8:21  Assorted proclamations going on now.

8:24  citizen comments now.

8:30  Now showing a video done to promote the city of Carbondale.  Concluded to a round of applause.

8:34  Consent agenda.  Wanna bet Don Monty pulls at least two items off for a separate vote?

8:38  Nope, only Fronabarger.  He wants Item 5.12 pulled for individual consideration.

8:39  Consent agenda passes by well, unanimous consent. Item 5.12 deals with purchasing additional protective and response gear for the police department.

8:41  Fronabarger wants more information about the equipment to be purchased and why.  Chief responds that the current equipment was purchased in the late '80s and need replacing and updating.

8:52  Request for more equipment passed.

8:53  Meeting still going on.  Request for approval for a TIF agreement for 104 S. Marion.

8:57  That was fast.  Agreement approved unanimously.

8:58  Request for a special use permit for Giant City Heating and Air Conditioning on Neal Lane. Expect quite a bit of discussion on this one.

9:00  Monty, seconded by Adams, moves to deny the permit, saying that several things that should have been built on the property were not built and that the applicant failed to respond to several letters notifying him about violations of the city code.

9:05  Monty argues it is bad public policy to retroactively approve what are essentially long term violations of the city code

9:17  Lance Jack arguing  the business is already a fait acompli,

9:18  Fronabarger asks if the applicant has any contingency plans if the city does not approve the special uses request.  Applicant says no.

9:20  Friend of the applicant asks the city to support small business in Carbondale by approving the application.

9:21  Neighbor of the applicant speaking in opposition, saying that the applicant has made no attempt to upgrade the property during the several years he has been there.  She says the property currently looks the best it has she she has lived on Neal Lane.

9:25  Lance Jack asks why, since the special use permit specifically restricts what can be done there, why should it not be approved, since he could not expand the business.  The neighbor responds that the pattern of behavior over the past seven years does not give any indication that he would follow the special use permit in the future.

9:27  Mother of one of the applicant's employees asked the council to approve the permit so as to keep small business in Carbondale.

9:28  Another neighbor says the road is not suitable for the traffic that the applicant's business generates, citing an example of a semi going to the business and getting stuck on Neal Lane, blocking the road for two hours.  Additional  neighbors say that neighborhood is residential, not commercial and that the applicant has a track record of saying he would maintain the property as residential but kept developing it as a business.

9:41  Don Monty arguing that the applicant has a pattern of not following city code and asking why the city should reward that behavior.

9:42  Applicant arguing that he has getting assorting approvals and permits from the city and had approvals seven years ago.  Says he has followed all the procedures and policies that the city has required.

9:50 Applicant says that instead of building a mobile home as the code required and as he said he would do, he decided to build a residence inside a pole bard, because it fit his needs better.

9:59  Monty asks Chris Wallace if the use of the property for business was ever listed on any of the permits.  Wallace says that it was not.

10:01  Adams adds that the purpose of zoning is to create reasonable trust that the neighborhood I build a home in will follow the rules that the community has agreed to.

10:04  Bradshaw asks if it is possible to have an associated building with out a home in place first.   Wallace says no.

10:09  Jack says that if the applicant would fire his one employee, he would be completely in compliance with city code.

10:13  Going to a vote now.

10:14  Special use permit denied 5 to 2.

10:16  Next up, SIUC is asking for a permit to allow anyone with a catering permit for the university, with a liquor license, to sell liquor at the various SIUC stadiums.

10:18 Question arises about approval for the Glove Factory, which the city attorney says the university did not ask for.    He further says that the ordinance change only allows for a chase bar.  Caterers can serve alcohol any place on campus but can only sell it at permitted places.

10:24  Adams concerned that some caterers may not have a Carbondale liquor license which would preclude them from selling or service liquor at SIUC.

10:26  And the amendment is approved unanimously.

10:26  Fair Days approved unanimously.

10:27  Resolution granting Fair Days status for Welcomefest on Sept 14.  Council is getting tired as they are talking on top of each other to move and second.     Resolution approved unanimously.  Since they are moving to council comments,  I'm out of here.  Have a good evening.

City Council Meeting

City Council and Liquor Control Commission meet tonight.  Main point of interest in the LCC meeting is the request by Curbside Corporation for a class A2 liquor license for 227 West Main.. Two restaurants have failed there within the past year (Icebox Bar and Grille and Jay's), so the owners will have to do something significantly different in order to succeed, mainly make some arrangement to provide better parking.

Given the number of people who spoke regarding this re-zoning request at the Planning Commission meeting, I expect to see quite a discussion bout it during the council meeting proper.

Boo Rochman Park Vandalized

According to this story from WSIL, Boo Rochman Park, known locally at Castle Park, was vandalized by a group of six teenagers last week.  Video footage caught the group walking away after vandalizing a donation box at the park.

Had no idea there was so much vandalism going on at the Park but apparently it is bad enough that the family that built it as a memorial to their son had to cut back evening hours in an attempt to curb it.

Monday, August 26, 2013

New Business Ribbon Cuttings

Nice to see new businesses opening up and getting the full ribbon cutting presentation from the Chamber of Commerce.  McAlister's Deli (which was already packed when I drove by yesterday afternoon) had its ribbon cutting at 11 this morning and Delish will have one also at 11 a.m. on Friday.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Arena Liquor License

Received an email from a reader of the blog regarding the liquor license for the Arena and Stadium, since, according to this, the liquor license for the Arena, Stadium,  Charlotte West Stadium and Jones Stadium are all held by Chartwells, which no longer has a contract with the university.  This means no Chartwells, no liquor sales in any university stadium.

I emailed city manger Kevin Baity to find out the current status of the affected liquor sales.  Baity informed me that there is a request on the next city council agenda to amend the city code to allow city licensed caterers to sell liquor at the four locations  for which Chartwells previously had the license.  If the revision passes, anyone with a license to sell liquor at events elsewhere on campus (Shryock Auditorium, Leser Law Building, among others) could contract with the university to sell beer and alcohol at the stadiums.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Liquor License Requests

Some interesting liquor license change requests coming up at the LCC meeting on August 27.  Italian village requests a change from a class A1 (beer and wine only), to a Class A2 (allows all liquors).

Curbside (Bistro 51?), located in the old Icebox Bar and Grill location, is requesting a class A2 license.  An A2 license has no cap in terms of numbers allowed but required the location to generate 51% of of its revenues from food sales.  A number of "restaurants" in the past have attempted to skirt the law by getting an A2 license then quickly not meet the 51% requirement.  A business with an A2 or an A1 license is subject to auditing and can be shut down if it is found to generate more that 51% of its sales in liquor.

Update:  The Bistro 51 logo, which covered the Icebox logo, is now covered itself by the Curbside logo.

Finally, and this one really surprised me, long-time downtown stalwart New Kahala Fast Foods is requesting an A1 license.  A Bud Light with your Cashew Chicken?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

New Food Services in Student Center

While I am glad to see that the Student Center has replaced the eateries it lost when Chartwells failed to resign its contract for food service, I see this as taking the center back to square 1.5 in terms of dining options.

The reason the Student Center brouhgt in all of the franchised and nationally know brands for dining in the Student Center was thea students demonstrated with their dollars they did not want to eat the food offered by the Student Center.  When dining options were first expanded in the center, all of it was run byt the Center under various local names.  Sales, as I recall were pretty poor, poor enought that the University solicited McDonald's to move from its location on the Strip, where Kaya's is located now, to its currently Student Center location.  Gradually more franchised restaurants filled in around McDonalds, until  this past spring when negotiations apparently failed.  Now, students will get to pick between restaurants operated directly by the Student Center and those operated under franchise, and of course, McDonald's and Starbucks.  Based on the track record, I expect the franchised and brand name operations to easily outperform the university run ones.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Fire Station Update

Happened to run into (figuratively) Fire Department chief John Michaelesko this afternoon and asked about completion time of the new west side fire department.  He couldn't give a specific date but indicated the construction was moving ahead of schedule and he expected to see it finished by the end of the year.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Friday, August 16, 2013

Notes from Pickle's Alley

Local teen and cancer survivor Rose Wright gets to visit the home of James Herriot.

McAlister's Deli has its grand opening Monday

Planning Commission denied request for ground floor apartments in downtown.

Monday, August 12, 2013

SIUC Housing Master Plan

Given the mild controversy surrounding the housing situation at SIUC, I thought a look at the housing master plan for the university would prove interesting.  If the the university follows the plan as proposed, the layout of university housing would change significantly.  According to the plan, all of the construction would be finished by Fall 2023.  Here are the main points of the plan that I see.

1.  Thompson Point remains pretty much as it stands now, with buildings renovated on an as needed basis but not replaced.

2.  Housing dedicated to graduate students, with 150 beds, built near the SIUC Law School

3.  Alumni  and retirement housing replacing the now closed Southern Hills buildings.

4. To encourage Greek organizations to move back to campus,  small group AKA Greek housing built on Stehr Field, just northwest of the Wham Educational Building.

5.  Demolition of Neely Hall and Brush Towers, replaced by a number of lower rise residential units circling a central green space.

Comments welcome.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Oakland Avenue Auto Service

As the saga of Oakland Ave. Auto Repair continues, the owners have an appeal coming up before the Zoning Board of Appeals.  However, Oakland Auto Auto Repair apparently no long functions as an entity, as the signs have come down and there is a "For Rent" sign on the building.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Qin Guan

Just noticed a new sign replacing the Great Wall restaurant sign.  Apparently "The King is Dead, Long Live the King."  Sign says "Under New Management" and "Now Hiring" so hopefully they will reopen soon with fewer health violations.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

City Council Meeting

7:40  Council meeting opens. Fritzler reminds everyone that students are coming back. Bradshaw reminds everyone that we dropped the bomb on Japan today. Adams  points out the PD will reinstitute a Neighborhood Watch program. Had a meeting with some members of the community regarding revitalizing The long dormant Neighborhood Watch program.  Lance Jack wants to bring business owners into any Watch program.  Lee Fronabarger mentions upcoming yard sale at the arena parking lot on August 24 and unveils the Carbondale t-shirt, proceeds from which will go to the Aquatics Center. City Manager Baity announces SIUc will test storm sirens this Saturday to see where the best placement for the new system will be.  The city will do something similar on August 20.  Also new recycling containers will be placed downtown and meters are bagged the 12th through the 23rd.

7:50 during citizen comments, a rep from the NAACP steaks against the "quotas" proposed by the police department that has gotten a lot of discussion recently. Kathy Renfro then speaks thanking the city for its helped in moving forward with the Aquatic Center.  M. Stalls asks how notice of the Neighborhood Watch meeting was broadcast. She is also concerned about police performance "quotas" and wonders about how officers are rewarded for going beyond in the performance of their  duty.  Audrey Wagner asks that the city look into , during the upcoming resurfacing of Hwy 13, putting in a bicycle lane.

8:10 Consent agenda opened.  Item 5.5 gets pulled from the agenda for individual consecration. Remaining consent agenda items approved. 5.5 is an application for the IDOT TransportationEnhancement  Program for funding for phase 2 of the downtown pedestrian bike path. Fronabarger wants to add a pedestrian bike bridge allowing the proposed path to cross over Mill Street.  Baity fears that adding a bridge to the proposal would make ti too costly and cause denial of the request.

8:25   Adams wants to incorporate the bridge into the current plan as well. Grand application is under a tight deadline so may not be able to rewrite it. Seems the consensus is to approve the application but they want to keep talking about it.  Baity says bridge is under consideration for a future phase of the bike path development and, if the city is successful in achieving the funding, come back to the state and ask for funding to add in a bridge.

8:35 it appears the bridge is part of phase three of the bike path project. Approved unaimously.

8:39 request to put a TitleMax in the old Wendy's location.  Lance Jack moves to deny asking what the rationale for the original denial of the request, aside from a desire not to position Carbondale as the "loan shark capital of southern Ilinois."   Concerned about the eleven similar businesses in Carbondale . Monty argues there is probably a better use for the  property, but there appears no land use reason for denying the request.

8:47. Request does not appear to violate any of the six criteria for denying a special use permit.

8:54 / still discussing the special use permit. Have to leave so will catch up on the tv.

9:02  Council votes down the special use permit for TitleMax.

9:12  Adams strong disassociates herself from comments Fritzler has made  about negotiations with the city police department.

9:14  More discussion about the proposed Neighborhood Watch.

9;16  Council moves to closed meeting.

Liquor Control Commission Meeting

7:00 pm  approval of a liquor license for the Southern Illinois Irish Festival. Approved unanimously .

7:04 request to transfer the Pinch Penny Liquors license to its new location across the street.  Don Monty has some questions about parking and points out the building was originally designed to expand to the west. Council wants to make sure green space will be retained on the property. Approved  unanimously.

7:12 Larry's House of Cakes requesting a liquor license  them to serve liquor in an after dinner atmosphere.  Liquor sales are projected to run about 30% of sales.  Some concerns expressed about the possibility of a video gaming machine getting placed in the business and how it would affect the atmosphere.  Approved unanimously.

7:25 3rd quarter report from the police department received. Jane Adams has some questions about the tickets for sale of liquor to a minor by Cali's. Adams requests that bars with serious violations be contacted, asking them to attend so they can respond to questions about the violations.  With that, the report is approved.

7:33  Meeting adjourned.

City Council Meeting

Heading over to City Council meeting in a few minutes. Will post a report afterwards.  From the agenda, it should be a short one but if a couple of council members get the pit in their teeth about consent agenda items, it could take a lot longer.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sycamore Court Apartments

Have noticed a sign on W. Sycamore, just west of Hickory Lodge, for the past couple of weeks announcing the coming of Sycamore Court Apartments.  Given the number of apartments built in Carbondale over the past couple of years, coupled with the decline in attendance at SIUC,  leaves me wondering if the new apartments are a triumph of optimism over reality.  Zoning issues should not be a problem as there are already two apartment complexes located within 3 blocks of the proposed location.  Unless the developers acquire more property, though, it looks like a small complex would have to go in.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Solid Waste Pick up

Now might be a good time to get rid of unwanted items as the city will be picking  stuff up each day starting next Friday through August 25.  Downside is that it costs $15 for the pick up plus an extra $7.50 for each additional minute it takes to load up your trash.  Of course, the scavangers that circle Carbondale this time of year looking for finds along side the curb may haul off your stuff before the city ever gets to it.

With SIUC students arriving back on campus and fall classes starting on Monday, August 19th, the City of Carbondale will again be offering additional services to the public:

•           In addition to established office hours, the City Water Office will be open extended hours from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, beginning on Wednesday, August 14th and ending on Wednesday, August 28th.
•           Free newcomer and visitor information will be available in City Hall along with free bottled water.
•           Parking meters will be covered to allow free parking on downtown parking lots between Monday, August 12th and Friday, August 23th.

In an effort to keep the City clean of trash and debris, the Refuse and Recycling Division will conduct City Designated Solid Waste Collection Days and provide daily patrols of the City to collect and dispose of refuse from the curbside. Regular patrols will begin on Friday, August 9th and continue through Sunday, August 25th. Patrols will be performed seven days a week as determined to be necessary by City staff.

Within the guidelines of City Designated Solid Waste Collection Days, refuse at curbside will be removed and the property owner of record will be billed based on the time it takes at each location. All collections will be timed and billed to the property owner of record at the City's Extra Solid Waste Collection rate which is $15.00 plus $7.50 per minute after the first minute, rounded up to the next whole minute. Under this program collection will include:

•           Refuse that is not placed curbside by 8:00 a.m. in an area whose normal refuse collection day is the current day and/or exceeds the residential refuse limit of one cubic yard (200 gallons or six 33 gallon cans).
•           Refuse that is placed at the curbside prior to 4:00 p.m. in areas whose normal refuse collection day is the following day and which exceeds the residential refuse limit of one cubic yard (200 gallons or six 33 gallon cans).
•           Refuse that is placed at the curbside in areas where the normal collection day is not the following day.
•           All refuse that is placed at the curbside at any time where the property address in question is not a regular customer of City refuse collection.
•           Please note that landscape waste, white goods (household appliances,) and tires will not be collected under this program. These items will be collected on a call-in basis only as a part of the City's existing sticker collection programs by calling the Maintenance and Environmental Services Division at (618) 457-3275.

The City's Designated Solid Waste Collection Days will be augmented by staff from the Building and Neighborhood Services Division making regular patrols throughout the City and issuing citations as needed. Building and Neighborhood Services Division staff will issue citations to the property owner of record for the following violations:

•           The property in question is not a regular customer of City refuse collection. (Note: To maintain the cleanliness of the City, any refuse set at curbside on property which is not a regular customer of City refuse collection will be collected and the property owner will be billed for the collection in accordance with program guidelines.)
•           The refuse is not properly bagged or neatly stacked for collection at the curbside.

These guidelines have been established in an effort to keep the City free of debris and refuse as well as to prevent the regular City Refuse and Recycling customer from being penalized for setting their refuse out slightly earlier than permitted by City Ordinance which is 6:00 p.m. on the day prior to the customer's regular collection day.

Water Bill Update

Looks as if the city and Cornerstone have partially settled the water bill kerfluffle as Cornerstone has paid $25,000 of the $90,000 bill.  From comments in the article, it appears that Cornerstone charged tenants  $33 per month for water, anticipating an average bill per household of $30 to $40.  However, the average bill ran closer to $90 to $100 per month, reflecting  the larger number of families with young children living in the complex, as singles and students tend to use much less water.

What surprises me is that the owners of Cornerstone say they have known about the unpaid water bills since last year, have been in negotiations with the city over payment received a notice of disconnect 18 days ago, but made no attempt to raise the water rates charged to tenants to cover the cost, letting the unpaid bills build up.  Granted, Cornerstone, as it says in the article, focuses on low income housing, but it is still a for-profit entity and should have made tenants aware of the need to raise water rates long ago.