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Iowa City Council OKs $11 million for public works facility

Council also amends rental permit rules near University of Iowa

The city of Iowa City public works facility on Napoleon Lane will be getting an $11 million expansion and upgrade. The council voted 6-0 to OK the work on Tuesday night, but expressed interest in adding solar panels to the new facility’s roof.   (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
The city of Iowa City public works facility on Napoleon Lane will be getting an $11 million expansion and upgrade. The council voted 6-0 to OK the work on Tuesday night, but expressed interest in adding solar panels to the new facility’s roof. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — The City Council on Tuesday OK’d the first step in a nearly $11 million project to improve the public works facility.

The council voted 6-0 for a plan to build almost 50,000 square feet of garage space, a wash bay and shop space in the main building at 3800 Napoleon Lane, near the Terry Trueblood Recreation Area and Napoleon Park.

The plan also calls for a fire training area.

“The current facilities are in poor condition and are inefficient, spreading the city fleet and staff across the city at numerous locations,” Melissa Clow, the city’s special projects administrator, said in a memo to the council. “A number of these locations are leased facilities to provide adequate storage space for city equipment.”

Construction should be completed by November 2019, with the main building having a silver LEED energy certification. The roof is being built to have solar panels added in the future.

Council members questioned why solar panels weren’t already included.

“I think we’re making a huge mistake by not making a serious commitment to a net-zero facility ... to put that solar infrastructure on the front end,” council member Rockne Cole said. “I don’t think we’re serious about our climate change program if we’re not showing the private sector what the public sector can do.”

City Manager Geoff Fruin said the city has a solar feasibility study coming to the council in the next month.

He recommended the council OK the plans, so the bid process could start, decide later where the city should emphasize solar.

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“Let us present to you all the data that we have from the facilities that we looked at,” Fruin said. ”We will lay out all the options for solar. There’s a good chance that this one will rise to the top based on some preliminary numbers that the team has looked at. And then you can decide how aggressive you want to be going into this budget.”

RENTAL CAP

The City Council also voted 6-0 to amend the city’s rental permit cap ordinance, which affects neighborhoods near the University of Iowa.

The state Legislature last year passed House File 134, which prohibits cities from regulating occupancy of rental units based on familial status.

Previously, Iowa City limited the number of nonfamilial residents in a given unit to thee. Therefore, for example, no more than three University of Iowa students could live in a given apartment unit without being related.

In response to the state law change, Iowa City capped the number of rental permits that could be issued to duplexes and single-family homes, with the intention of stabilizing neighborhoods immediately surrounding the university.

Since then, city staffers have noticed “homeowners obtaining a rental permit as a speculative measure,” according to a memo from Stan Laverman, senior housing inspector.

The amendment now requires any property receiving a rental permit to be leased promptly.

l Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

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