Zoning code, calendar, cybersecurity, Winnebago
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Friday AM Daily | July 19, 2019
Proposed D.M. zoning code ‘very regressive,’ commission is told
By Kathy A. Bolten | Senior Staff Writer

Numerous adjectives were used Thursday to describe Des Moines’ proposed new zoning code, including "prescriptive," "overreaching" and "exclusionary."

"This is a very regressive code," Dan Knoup, executive officer of the Home Builders Association of Greater Des Moines, said at a public hearing on the proposed code that includes development guidelines for single-family houses. "The citizens in the neighborhood communities are losing their voice."

Des Moines is in the midst of updating its zoning code, which provides development guidelines for industrial, commercial and residential districts. Before the Des Moines City Council adopts the code it must first be approved by the Plan and Zoning Commission, which held a public hearing Thursday attended by nearly 80 people.

Several homebuilders and real estate agents say the code’s guidelines will make buying newly built houses unaffordable for buyers with moderate incomes. Included in the code are requirements on the types of building materials that can be used to build single-family houses as well as minimum size requirements. The code also requires new houses to have full basements and garages.   

The commission will vote in August on the code and any recommended changes.

The city’s current code was adopted in 1965 and has been amended more than 300 times, Mike Ludwig, Des Moines planning administrator, told commission members Thursday.

The code is "not very user-friendly. There’s conflicts in the document [regarding] designs and regulations," he said.

Ludwig said the proposed code is easier to navigate and developers will have a faster path to getting projects approved if they meet all design requirements. "This will eliminate the need for public hearings," he said.

He told the commission the proposed zoning code supports affordable housing in several ways:
  • It eliminates timely and costly duplicative approval processes.
  • It allows the construction of more multifamily structures such as duplexes and fourplexes.
  • It allows houses to be built on smaller lots sizes.
  • It allows accessory housing units such as apartments over garages.

Ludwig said developers who want to build houses that don’t conform with the city’s code can ask for variances from city staff, the Plan and Zoning Commission and the City Council. In addition, he said city staff will have the authority to waive the basement requirements in some areas of the city.

However, he said, "we think [basements] provide economical space for growth in that home. …This gives the opportunity for people to grow in place in their existing house."

Ludwig said an analysis showed that properties without garages did not appreciate at the same pace as those with the structures. In addition, "we have issues with improper storage on properties without garages," he said.

Developers who want the garage requirement waived must get it from the planning commission; it’s not a requirement city staff can waive, he said.

Lance Henning, executive director of Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity, told the commission that the proposed code would raise the organization’s cost of building a new house by $75,000 to $90,000. In addition, because the houses the nonprofit builds for low- and moderate-income families don’t have garages or basements, the organization would have to seek exemptions from the city, a task that would require an additional staff person to be hired, he said.

"Seventy-five percent of Des Moines’ households should not be priced out of the choice to build a new home," said Henning, one of 14 people who spoke at the public hearing. He asked the commission to eliminate the requirements for basements and garages and to reduce – or eliminate the minimum square footage requirements.

Dave Stone, an advocacy officer with United Way of Central Iowa, reminded the commission of a recent workforce housing study that showed Greater Des Moines will need more than 57,000 new owner-occupied houses in the next 20 years to provide places for new workers and their families to leave. More than half of the houses will need to be priced below $175,000, according to the study.

Stone said United Way officials are concerned about restrictions the proposed code places on new single-family houses.

"These restrictions will place unnecessary barriers in front of those who need affordable housing options and will make homeownership an unrealistic path out of poverty for many in our community," he said.

The Plan and Zoning Commission will continue the public hearing at its Aug. 1 meeting. The commission is also expected to vote on the proposed code and any proposed changes at that meeting as well.

To read the proposed code, click here.

Is Des Moines turning its back on affordable new houses? Homebuilders think so

The average value of a building permit for a single-family house in Des Moines in June was $155,785, city records show. The average square footage, 1,251.

And that type of housing is what’s needed to meet future workforce needs in the Greater Des Moines area, a recent analysis showed. The study showed that 16,500 newly constructed houses priced below $175,000 will be needed in the next two decades to house workers paid low- and moderate-income wages, workforce segments expected to grow in the next two decades.

The city of Des Moines is inching closer to adopting a new zoning code that includes development guidelines for single-family houses. Several homebuilders say the guidelines will make newly built houses unaffordable for buyers with moderate incomes. Read more

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The week ahead: July 21-28

July 21-27: RAGBRAI
About: The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa is heading into its 46th year. RAGBRAI is the oldest, largest and longest recreational bicycle touring event in the world.
When: Various times
Where: Various cities
Learn more

July 26: Iowa Character Awards
Host: Drake University
About: The Ray Center annually recognizes Iowans who show the Six Pillars of Character Counts!: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and good citizenship. Since 2005, we have recognized more than 100 Iowans for showing good character.
When: 6:30-8:45 p.m.
Where: The Meadows Events & Conference Center at Prairie Meadows
Learn more

July 28: Smoke Out Hunger
Host: Food Bank of Iowa
About: BBQ from local restaurants, live music, lawn games and picnic table board games. All proceeds benefit Food Bank of Iowa’s work to end hunger in Iowa.
When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Where: Brenton Skating Plaza
Learn more

View our full calendar to see the latest curated business and community events, or suggest an event.
The trick to cybersecurity preparation
Cybersecurity is a never-ending threat, but the biggest risk to an organization can also sprout from its most trusted asset — the employees.

BrightWise, a new company born out of collaboration between West Des Moines-based Affiliates Management Co. and Montana-based LMG Security, is meant to mitigate those risks. CEO Sherri Davidoff, who is also CEO of LMG Security, and COO Corey Skadburg, formerly of Affiliates Management, focus BrightWise on producing creative, short online training courses that can accommodate cybersecurity training at all company levels.

After recently presenting at the Monetery Tech Summit in May, Davidoff spoke to innovationIOWA about the challenges that cybersecurity training presents. Read more

Sign up for the Business Record's weekly innovationIOWA e-newsletter.

China trade war could cost Winnebago tens of millions of dollars
MarketWatch: Winnebago Industries Inc. says the U.S.-China trade war will have a "material dollar impact" on results, but the recreational-vehicle maker said in some cases its options to deal with the impact are limited or just not worth the cost. The company on Wednesday reported a fiscal third-quarter profit that beat expectations but revenue that missed, as weakness in its motor home business offset strength in towables. In the company’s earnings release, Chief Executive Michael Happe said the cost of materials remains "volatile," as newly implemented and pending tariffs resulting from the U.S.-China trade war will start to affect input costs in the back half of 2019.

Gannett closes in on deal to combine with GateHouse Media
Wall Street Journal: Gannett Co., publisher of the Des Moines Register and USA Today, is nearing a deal to combine with rival GateHouse Media, people familiar with the matter said, a move that would join the nation’s two largest newspaper groups by circulation at a time local media is in a battle for survival. The companies are grappling with a brutal environment for local newspapers around the country. Private-equity-backed GateHouse has a reputation for aggressively slashing expenses at titles it acquires.

Today’s extra briefs:
- Cargill rail yard in C.R. advances despite pleas from neighbors (Cedar Rapids Gazette)
No one wants the middle seat on airplanes. This design could change that.

CNN Travel: It is a truth universally acknowledged that middle seats on airplanes are the worst. Being awkwardly sandwiched in between two people while fighting for elbow room is the bane of most passengers. Now a new design might actually make people want the middle seat ― or at least make the flying experience less miserable.
Being a Counterintuitive Investor – Do Stock Markets Follow GDP?
CFP®, AIF®, Chief Investment Officer

The Cambridge Dictionary defines counter intuitive as "something that…does not happen in the way you would expect." We have an intuition about something, an expectation about how something should work, or a view of causality that in real life does not prove to be correct or reliable. > FULL ARTICLE

Governor's office on reasons for Foxhoven resignation: 'Tupac was not one of them'
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Thursday through a spokesman that the resignation of former Iowa Department of Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven had nothing to do with his apparent obsession with the late rapper Tupac Shakur. "As the governor has said, a lot of factors contributed to the resignation of Jerry Foxhoven and now Gov. Reynolds is looking forward to taking DHS in a new direction. Of course Tupac was not one of them," said Pat Garrett, governor's office spokesman. Read more
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5200 block of Franklin Avenue
1700 block of 34th Street
700 block of 35th Street

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