As expected, last Tuesday’s July 19th Flagstaff City Council meeting addressed a few hot button issues.
$20,000 for signs
One of the first items up for vote was $20,000 in signs for a section of Rt. 66 located at the corner of E. Rt. 66 & Hwy. 89A, by the big auto park sign. This small park next to a small remaining strip of Rt. 66 pavement is only accessible by bike or foot. Council voted in favor of the signage by a 5-2 vote and will spend about $12,000 of your tax dollars and $8,000 of grant money to place signs so people at the park can read the history of Rt. 66 and other info. Mayor Nabours and I found this expense excessive, voted no and questioned Council’s spending priorities. Is this really a good use of our BBB funds when so many other priorities exist? I asked staff what the count is as far as people using this park and staff did not know the usage. Everyone I’ve talked to that drives by this park has never seen anyone using it, except the City maintenance crew cleaning it and the occasional bicyclist. As I state every Council Meeting, I’m looking forward to budget discussions this fall and a re-prioritization of expenditures.
The Snow Park discussion was very long. Many from Friends of Flagstaff’s Future and other individuals came out to ask Council not to allow the Snow Park on McMillan Mesa. While I appreciate their participation I respectfully disagree with a lot of their arguments against the snow park. A Snow Play area that is centrally located is the most economically viable path for a successful operation and is also the most convenient for the many families that will use the park. Arguments that this is a public/private partnership, which I campaigned against, are also incorrect. The Daily Sun did a fair editorial that you can read here.
Some details of the project:
The City is proposing to lease the land to the operator of the Snow Park. This is a 100% privately funded operation, the operator is even putting up over $130,000 to build a second parking lot near Buffalo Park, a parking lot they will rarely use but will benefit the City. The operator will get half this expense back over three years through a rental credit. The City is putting up zero dollars. The private company is putting up 100% of the money, 100% of the risk and will run 100% of the operation and is even putting up a $75,000 deposit to restore the land if they go out of business. The City gets a parking lot, rental & tax revenue and the community gets a much wanted snow play area.
I believe the majority of Council is in favor of the Snow Park but the contentious item is night lighting. Some are claiming this will negatively impact our dark skies despite the fact that the developer will follow the dark sky ordinance. In fact the total lighting output is about 20,000 lumins per acre while the code says you can have up to 50,000 lumins per acre in this area. I find the lighting to be reasonable and well below the standard we would hold for any other commercial developer within the City limits. This is why I floated a motion to allow lighting until 7:00PM. Keep in mind in December the sun sets at around 5:30PM, getting dark around 6:00PM. Lights out at 7:00PM seemed like a reasonable compromise that would allow the operator a greater chance at success and the public some expanded sledding times and at the same time closing early enough so as not to affect the dark skies and observatory views for very long. Unfortunately lighting only had the support of myself, Mayor Nabours and Councilwoman Brewster and since Councilman Woodson had to recuse himself we had a 3/3 tie. So no lights for now. I encourage you to give your input towards the Snow Park. The next time we’ll discuss it is September 4th.
$24,000,000 in bonds
Council voted 5-2 (myself and Councilwoman Barotz against) in favor of putting two bond questions on the November ballot. $10,000,000 for a forest thinning project and $14,000,000 for a $30,000,000+ maintenance yard project. I do support the thinning project with the understanding that during the upcoming budget process Council find about $1,000,000 per year in budget reallocation to help fund the project thus bringing the bond down to about $5,000,000. I will try to get support for this proposal. Reducing our reliance on borrowed money and better utilizing existing cash flow should be Council’s top priority. I was forced to vote no on both since the vote was attached to the maintenance yard.
The maintenance yard is an issue that needs to be addressed but I could not support a bond for $14,000,000 for a $30,000,000 project that is still mostly undefined and is still in negotiations. The public has very little info about this project. I acknowledge the need for a solution to the current maintenance yard’s shortcomings but I would prefer to see more solutions offered and a clear definable plan prior to asking the voters to borrow any amount of money. I look forward to a time that the public will get the full details of this project. I fear that by putting the maintenance yard back on the ballot just two years after it was soundly defeated, along with the state extension of the 1 cent sales tax, FUSD bond and many other questions is a bad idea and may risk the passage of the forest thinning bond. Time will tell.
A Frame Signs
I attempted to get A-Frame signs back up for a discussion. Many businesses, especially in East Flagstaff and 4th Street would like to see the use of A-Frame Signs expanded. It has been shown that the use of these signs can increase traffic to businesses dramatically. I beleive that they should be allowed to be used on private property as the business and property owner sees fit, removing the 60 day limitation. I would like to see the signs have to follow basic design standards so that they look attractive and also believe they should only be out during business hours. Unfortunately only Councilman Woodson and Mayor Nabours agreed so the discussion will not occur any time soon but may be addressed next year. I think we missed an opportunity to help businesses sooner rather than later.
Council is now on break until late August. During that time I’ll be going on many tours throughout Flagstaff and visiting various City Operations and departments. I look forward to continuing to work on some very important issues in late August and early September including a final vote on the Snow Park, user fees at the Ice Rink and a Civil Rights Ordinance. I’ll continue to blog about the City Council, how the votes pan out and specifically, how I vote and my reasoning for my votes. My first month on Council has been rewarding and it’s exciting to see a Council that is having some hard debates on issues that are long overdue and some really divergant ideas about how to run our City. In the end we’re all trying to do what we each think is best, we just have some different ideas on how to get there.