Friday, January 31, 2014

Downtown Development

The proposal made by Tartan Realty to build a 300 unit residential/commercial building where 710 Bookstore means several major changes to the downtown area and raises a couple of concerns.

One likely change would be the closing or drastic reconfiguration of 710 Bookstore.  As noted in the linked article above, the owner already plans to close the business, while store manager Randy Johnson says he is pursuing options to keep the business open.  Since the proposed apartment complex has plans for commercial spaces at the north and south ends, one scenario calls for a drastically shrunken 710 Bookstore to move into one of those spaces.

A second major change involves the expansion of the building footprint. According to the plans I have seen, the building would roughly double in size, removing approximately three rows of parking spaces from the south end of Illinois and University Avenues, reducing the limited amount of parking there even further.

This parking reduction points out a major problem with the development as it stands: parking.  From what I understand, the developer plans for .1 to .2 vehicles per unit in the building, meaning the company expects to need parking for 30 to 60 vehicles. The only parking planned for the building is about 80 spaces for retail use, meaning those 30 to 60 vehicles would have to park off site.

The projected tenants of the facility, however, are upper-class SIUC students, almost all of which will have their own vehicles, taking us from a projected rate of .1-.2 vehicles per unit to .5-.9 per unity, meaning parking spaces are needed for 150 to 300+ vehicles. Where will they go?  There is a reason why much of the new residential building has gone up on south 51, east Hwy 13 and East Grand Avenue.  Unlike downtown, there is plenty of open space there, enough to put in both the apartments and the parking to go along with them.  Any new apartment complex in the downtown area will have to provide for the parking needs of its residents.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

City Council Meeting

Had to leave last night's city council meeting after about an hour.  Before the meeting, council held a reception for resigning mayor Joel Fritzler with about half the council attending.

During the meeting, one speaker during citizen comments complained that the city had not taken action regarding his complaint about streetlights shining through his window two months previously, nor did it appear interested in his plan to save energy costs by retrofiting streetlights with motion detectors.  The mayor did point out that it had taken him nearly a year to get a stop sign put in place after the mayor's cat was killed at an intersection near his home.  Another speaker wanted the city to require taxis to give customers receipts upon request and I couldn't understand the third since he would not speak into the microphone consistently.

Next was the presentation of a plaque to Mayor Fritzler thanking him for his years on council and as mayor.  I was amused to see him acting chummy with Lance Jack for a few moments.

The big news was the revived proposal of a combined residential/commercial property located in the block where 710 Bookstore now sits.  Since the proposed remodel of 710 Bookstore does not appear to be going forward, the proposed development would again include commercial space at street level with three floors of residential apartments above.  I think the architect involved is Doug Farr, who was instrumental in the redevelopment of Normal, IL's downtown.  Much like the previous proposal, a major concern is parking, which is already constrained at that end of town and would become even more scarce should the development go through.

No idea if the proposed extension of time for vehicle retailers to claim a sales tax rebate was passed or if it was sent back for further review.  I hope the latter but have emailed to find out.

Incidentally, there is a meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals tonight at 6 p.m.  Only item on the agenda is Home Rentals appeal's of the city's ability to regulate real estate signs.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

City Council Meeting

City council meeting tonight at 7 p.m.  The major things on the agenda are setting the method for choosing Don Monty's replacement on city council and modifying an Economic Development Incentive Program for new vehicle franchise dealerships.  Under the program, a new auto dealer can apply for a grant of up to $50,000 from the city, but the $50dealer must show it generated at least $50,000 in sales tax within the frist six month after opening.  It doesn't indicate what happens if they dealership does not meet the $50,000 requirement.  Do they have to reimburse the city for the difference between $50,000 and the actual amount generated by the tax?

A more important question is, why is does the city have a program like this anyway?  If an auto dealership, or any other business, sees Carbondale as a viable place to open, it will do so, regardless of whether the city offers a tax rebate or not.  And why is the city playing favorites with vehicle dealerships?  Why not offer this opportunity to every new business opening within Carbondale's city limits? 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Polar Bear

It looks as if Polar Bear was comparatively quiet this year as I see nothing in the local media about it, though it appears a few reports of theft and assault came from the area.

I asked a friend who attended Saturday night for a couple of hours.  According to him, the crowd was large but well managed, the police were out in force and made at least half a dozen arrests for intoxication during the time he was there.  The fact that none of the other bars in town participated this year, at least not publicly, likely made it easier for the police to concentrate manpower in that one area.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Polar Bear Morning

Drove by Pinch Penny Pub this morning, site of the annual Polar Bear event, after spotting students already lugging products home from Old Town Liquors.  With the lack of participation by other bars in the downtown area, it looks as if the focus will be on Pinch Penny.  I counted 7 C'dale police cars parked in the lot across the street from Pinch Penny, so the local constabulary plans to haul those breaking drinking laws away quickly.

Maybe it will go up later, but last year the university had a tent up to counsel students about drinking and to give them a place to rest and rehydrate.  I did not see that or any other counseling or rest facilities set up in the area but they may get set up later in the day.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Southern Que Reopening

According to this email from the Chamber of Commerce, Southern Que will have their grand re-opening, after last year's fire, at 11:30 today:

The Carbondale Chamber of Commerce will hold a Ribbon Cutting at SouthernQue Barbecue Restaurant, 11:30 a.m., Friday, Jan. 24. The business is located at 887 E. Grand Ave. in Carbondale. Participants and guests are encouraged to enjoy lunch at the restaurant.

Polar Bear

The 13th annual Polar Bear event at Pinch Penny Pub starts at 10 a.m. Saturday. Doesn't look as if it will be as widespread an event as in past year's as Cali's, for example, indicates they will not actively participate in Polar Bear, nor will Stix, which indicated on its Facebook page that both city and state officials had asked it not to host Polar Bear events:

People keep asking, so we would like to take this opportunity to once again let everyone know we will not be participating in Polar Bear/Puck Finch this year. It has been a great run and a whole lot of fun for all of us here and we hope for all of you as well. The City and the State have let us know they would like us to discontinue being a part of it, and since for some reason we are not the "golden boys" who can do no wrong here in town we felt it best to comply with this request.

We will be open our normal hours. Saluki Bar N' Grill will open at 4pm as always, Stix on the Strip will open at 6pm, and Calis Carbondale will open at 10pm. All operations on Saturday will be the same as every other week.

Once again, thank you to everyone for all your years of continued support of this event and we wish you all a great time this year. Be safe, eat and stay hydrated.

 Still, it does appear that a number of people will travel to Carbondale this weekend to participate in Polar Bear

Thursday, January 23, 2014

T J's Moved

T. J.'s Fine Jewelry has moved to its new location and will host a ribbon cutting on January 30.  Hopeful the business will prove enough of a destination store that their customers will make the effort to visit them.  Generally jewelry stores are more of an impulse visit that customers at which customers stop while visiting other stores.  That is why typically you see jewelers in mall locations or in strips along with other retailers,   People usually combine a visit to a jewelry store with a visit to another business.  The new TJ's location will require customers to make a special trip there so here's hoping they have enough loyal patrons who will make the trip

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Mayor Monty

Technically Acting Mayor Don Monty takes office at midnight on Feb 4th. City council unanimously voted to appoint him to serve out Joel Fritzler's unexpired term.  Vote was delayed a bit when Lance Jack pushed to make sure Fritzler did not vote on appointing Monty to the office, after which Fritzler said he had been lied to regarding his ability to vote on his successor.

After the vote Monty indicated he would resign his council seat and wanted to appoint someone to fill it by March 4 and planned to ask those interested in having a seat on the council to contact the city by an unspecified date.

Monty for Mayor?

According to a poll of its members by the Chamber of Commerce, over 60% of those responding want to see Don Monty fill out the remainder of Joel Fritzler's term:

Carbondale City Councilman Don Monty is the preferred choice of business leaders to serve as the city’s acting mayor, according to a poll conducted by the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce.
            Monty was named by 62 percent of respondents to the question “Who do you want to serve as acting mayor?” in a survey emailed Friday to the primary contact person at Chamber-member businesses and organizations. The survey was open for responses until 9 a.m. today.
            Monty received 36 of 58 votes in the survey. Other council members receiving support were Lance Jack with 8 votes (13.7 percent), Jane Adams with 7 votes (12 percent), Lee Fronabarger with 5 votes (8.6 percent) and Jessica Bradshaw with 2 votes (3.4 percent).
            Carbondale Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Les O’Dell said that response to the poll shows the city’s businesses are very interested in the outcome of Tuesday’s council action to name a acting mayor.
            “Our business leaders have a critical stake in the selection of the acting mayor,” he said. “I think the fact that 58 businesses responded to our survey in such a short time shows their concern with the selection. I believe the business community wants to work with city leaders to make Carbondale a city that is very welcoming and supportive of business.”
            He said the results of the Chamber’s poll will be shared with the members of the city council prior to Tuesday’s selection of the acting mayor.

Councilwoman Jane Adams, who had expressed interest in the position, sent out an email Monday afternoon supporting Monty as well:
I have known Don Monty for many years. Throughout that time I have regarded Don as one of the best public citizens in Carbondale. He is honest, reasonable and thoughtful. For all those reasons and more, I support Don Monty as Acting Mayor of Carbondale to fill out Joel Fritzler term.

Don is a very capable person. He knows the interior of the city’s administration intimately, having served in many capacities in the many years he worked for the city. He has also been active in the civic life of the city, and is deeply committed to the neighborhoods. As we have served together, he has demonstrated his ability to solve problems and to work with others.

Don and I have voted together the great majority of the time. We share a vision for Carbondale's prosperity. Indeed, all of my fellow Council members are committed to doing the very best for our community. With Don at the helm I anticipate a deeply collaborative  and hard working city council.

I ran for City Council on a platform to “reenergize, reinvest in, and revitalize Carbondale.” It is time to move forward with unity of purpose to make that happen.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Thai Taste Still Closed

Apparently the plumbing problems at Thai Taste are pretty considerable as the restaurant has remained closed for over a week..  The main drain pipe broke during the big freeze earlier this month, necessitating major repairs as well as paperwork on which others have to sign off.  From the business' Facebook page:

Let us start by saying we are NOT going anywhere. The fact of the matter is, our main drain line is broken. Unfortunately, the pipes do not run under just our building alone. Steps have to be taken to ensure that all parties and property owners' interests and concerns are addressed in case anything should happen during repairs. Sadly, not all parties involved live in the area. It has taken some time to get ahold of them and present them with paperwork.

Timing has been our enemy since Day One. When the plumbers were ready to go, the paperwork was not. And now that the paperwork is nearing completion, the plumbers are unavailable. There have been people working diligently since the beginning to help us get things accomplished as quickly as possible, including one individual who probably wishes we'd never contacted him in the first place!

It is both flattering and humbling that so many of you are concerned with our well being. We truly appreciate it, and deeply apologize for any inconvenience, especially to our wonderful staff, who have essentially been unemployed for over a week.

Rest assured, we are not dead. We have come back from worse. This is just a hiccup. We WILL be open again very soon.

Friday, January 17, 2014


So far, I have heard Don Monty and Jane Adams both express willingness to serve out the remainder of Joel Fritzler's term as mayor.  As I said before, I think Monty would be the best choice to serve out the remainder of the term, due to his detailed knowledge of city regulations and governmental operations.  However, I do fear he would also extend the length of council meetings even longer than they are now.

As far as a replacement for whomever the council chooses as mayor, I hope the council chooses someone not connected with the university to serve.  Currently, the only person on council without a SIUC connection (save  Monty) is Lance Jack.  While the university is the tail that wags the city, we do need some more representation of the business community on council.   I could see Roxanne Conley, owner of Attitude Designs, doing a good job on the council.  She runs a local business and is very active in the community.  However, she has so much on her plate currently that I doubt she would pursue the position actively.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Fritzler Resigns

Mayor Joel Fritzler announced his resignation today effective Feb. 3, to take a position at Northern Arizona State University. There will be a special session of city council on Jan 21 at which the council will select an acting Mayor to serve out the remaining 15 months of his term.    Council members will elect one of their own to serve as acting mayor, then, according to the way I read the code, the new acting mayor will select, with advice and consent from the other council members,  their replacement on the council.

So, if you are interested in service on the council, without the hassle of running for the seat, now is the time to start putting your name forward to the current council members.  Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing Don Monty serve as acting mayor, as he has demonstrated an extensive understanding of  the minutiae of city government during his time in office.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Koppers Update

Given the amount of controversy the Concerned Carbondale Citizens group has ginned up  in the past several months over the BrightFields Solar Array project on the Koppers site, I found the most recent report provided by Beazer, the company tasked by the EPA with cleaning up the site, interesting reading.

Items Performed/Completed Since Previous Report:
 On December 3, 2013, a group of local residents known as Concerned Carbondale Citizens submitted a
list of questions related to the Site and solar project to the Carbondale City Council.
 On December 10, 2013, Brightfields submitted a letter to the City of Carbondale requesting that the City
Council temporarily postpone further consideration of Brightfield’s Special Use Permit Application until
after the two requested public meetings are held.
 On December 20, 2013, FTS submitted the second 2013 semiannual RCRA groundwater sampling
data to IEPA.
 On December 26, 2013, Beazer submitted the Shrew Population Pilot Study Report to USEPA.
 Beazer, USEPA and others participated in corrective action coordination conference calls on December
6 and 20, 2013.
 Beazer continued post-construction OMM activities (e.g., DNAPL thickness measurements/removal,
CAMU leachate monitoring/removal, Site inspections, etc.).
 Beazer collected approximately 113 gallons of DNAPL from the barrier trench and approximately 34
gallons of DNAPL from recovery well RW-23 during this reporting period. The approximate total
DNAPL volumes collected through December 2013 are 17,641 gallons from the barrier trench and
7,228 gallons from RW-23.

Items Anticipated to be Performed/Completed over the Next One to Two Months:
 Beazer and Brightfields will continue to evaluate potential future solar land use at the Site.
 USEPA will plan an additional public meeting.
 Beazer and Brightfields will schedule additional public information sessions in conjunction with USEPA’s
public meeting.
 Beazer, USEPA and others will participate in planned biweekly conference calls to discuss Site
corrective action and redevelopment activities.
 Beazer and USEPA will participate in a meeting in Chicago to discuss various topics, including human
health and ecological risk assessments and the August 2012 sediment investigation findings.
Items Anticipated to be Performed/Completed over the Next Two to Six Months:
 Beazer will continue to evaluate potential future Site uses, including conservation land use and
commercial solar energy.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Parking Meters 2

Apparently my memory has been condensing time on me as a email from the city manager indicated that the city has not covered the downtown parking meters with bags during the Christmas season for three years now..  However, he also let me know that the city did not enforce or ticket autos parked in violation during the period either.  The reason was to eliminate the need to purchase new bags and signs, especially the signs, which were getting old.  There was also some concern about not having the people leaving town on Amtrak parking in the bagged spaces and defeating the free parking opportunities.

I can understand the need for the city to save money.  However, deciding not to enforce parking meters during the Christmas shopping season and not making sure everyone knows about it rather defeats the purpose of freeing up the parking.  As far as avoiding the parking problem with Amtrak, wait until the semester ends and then bag the meters or post signs.

 If money is short, maybe the city could contact the Chamber of Commerce or Carbondale Main Street to help purchase additional bags for next year  Heck, I would be glad to kick in money myself to help buy bags for the meters or pay for an updated sign, if it would help encourage people to come downtown to shop during the Christmas season.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

City Cable Channel

I had thought the city had discontinued broadcasting city council meetings and other civic information over Channel 16, especially since I had gotten nothing but static on the channel the last couple of times I tuned in to watch the city council meeting.  Figuring that the city had opted to drop broadcasting through 16 in favor of live steaming the meetings over the city website as I have not been able to see anything on the channel for a couple of months now.

Apparently that is not the case though.  I have received a couple of emails since last night indicating the city still broadcasts over 16 and that city manager Baity is looking into why I (and apparently some others) have not been receiving the signal.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

City Council Meeting

City council is meeting tonight. Cannot make it to the meeting and I don't see it broadcast on channel 16.  Here is the agenda, though.

One thing that rather bothers me is the city's active solicitations of per-applications from community organizations for city funding.  Given that the city just had to raise taxes to fund city pensions and has plans to retain the portion of the sales tax that is due to expire in a couple of years to further help fund those pensions, it would seems that actively seeking out more organizations to potentially fund is just setting those organizations up for future disappointment.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Downtown Chirstmas Lights

I see the city has starter removing the community Christmas lights.  While I can see the multi-colored ones hanging on the light poles and the revolving statues on the square coming down, it would be nice to leave up the lights that encircle the light poles and outline some of the buildings in downtown.  They certainly do brighten up downtown and make it look more lively after dark.