March 29, 2023

Three names presented for vacant at-large Osceola city council seat

The Osceola City Council met for a regular meeting on Feb. 7, at which time three names were given for council’s consideration to fill a vacant council seat.

Council vacancy

In December, councilwoman-at-large Missy Cline announced her resignation due to moving out of state, and officially tendered her resignation effective Jan. 17. It was decided by council to fill the vacancy by appointment, as permitted in Section 372.13 (2) of the Iowa Code.

It was explained that the decision to fill the seat by appointment rather than by holding a special election was largely due to timing. The auditor would have had to go through the same process as if it were a regular election, and the special election would likely not to happen until late spring or early summer. Additionally, with this year being a regular city election year, the person who won Cline’s seat would then have to turn around and file paperwork to run again, if they so chose.

The position will be filled by appointment at the March 7 meeting. Mayor Thomas Kedley informed council that he had vetted three candidates to fill Cline’s position and submitted them for council consideration - Sonya Hicks, Jose Vargas and Miles Murphy. Each candidate will have a chance to speak to the council at the March 7 meeting before a vote is held.

The new appointee to the at-large seat will have to run in the November election to finish out the remainder of Cline’s term; if the appointee chooses not to run, or is not elected, the new electee will then serve out the remainder of Cline’s term, which ends Dec. 31, 2025.

Workforce housing development

Council met with Damon Boyd and Shane Akers with Hometown Housing for a work session in late January, where Boyd presented his plans to build eight houses in Osceola, using infill lots. Infill lots are those that are empty, either from previous development or the removal of an existing structure.

Boyd and his team were awarded eight, workforce housing tax credits by the state, and had originally intended to build in a different community. However, that plan was not going to work, and the state allowed Boyd to reassign those tax credits elsewhere, and Boyd would like to potentially build in Osceola.

Before launching their first four builds, Hometown Housing needs to first assess the demand for such housing.

The city has been asked to fund phase one of the project, which is a study to look into the demographics of Osceola, including talking with employers, gathering data on who lives here, own versus rent, those who commute but would like to live in the area and so forth. The cost of the study will be $25,000, and would be paid for using American Rescue Plan funds.

“$25,00 is a lot of money, however, we’re looking at putting [houses] in infill lots and recovering that revenue in property taxes…the data becomes the city’s, not the developer’s,” said councilman-at-large Dr. George Fotiadis.

The data obtained in the study could further be used to assist other developers who are looking to build in the area.

Councilman Tom Bahls voiced his concerns about funding the study. He said that while he is on board with what Hometown Housing is proposing, there are other entities within the county whose priority in community development is housing, yet the city is being asked to pay for the study and reimburse the cost by taxes collected.

“I believe we should speak to CCDC [Clarke County Development Corporation] regarding participation in either the lot program, or paying for the housing study,” said Bahls.

“I would like to make it clear…we would do the same here for any developer who was serious, had a real plan that they could come to the table with…we’re not just doing this cause it’s a local business…it’s good for development within the city,” said councilman Doug Gay.

With a motion by Fotiadis and a second by Hooper, the proposal from Hometown Housing for research data went to vote. Councilmen Fotiadis, Dan Hooper, and Gay all voted ‘yes.’

“This has no reflection on my support of the project or the reason behind it,” Bahls said before voting no.

The motion passed 3-1.

Prohibited Parking

The third reading of the amendment to Chapter 69.14 of Osceola’s code of ordinances passed 4-0. The ordinance reads,

“5. The City Council may, upon receiving an application, issue a permit to authorize parking between the hours of 2:00 AM to 5:00 AM upon any street described herein. If a Snow Emergency pursuant to Chapter 69.12 is in effect, said permit shall be suspended until the street upon which the parking permit has been issued is fully open.”

The purpose of the amendment is to allow for overnight parking on the square for guests of Airbnbs, where off-street parking is not available or easily accessible; currently, no parking is permitted overnight on the square. The request for overnight parking was originally brought to the council by Kim Jackson of Timber Ridge Country Market at the Dec. 20 meeting. Jackson had opened a short term rental above her store at 117 W. Washington Street, and needed a place for guests to park.

Other council business

The city’s fiscal year 2024 max levy hearing has been scheduled for March 7 during the city council meeting.

Kimberly Adams and Lindsay Redman were both reappointed to the Parks and Rec Board with terms to end Dec. 31, 2025, and Kedley will bring adjustments to the airport commission and an appointment to the golf course commission at a later date.

Mike Lee with SWIPCO updated the council on the current Housing Grant project during the public hearing for the Community Development Block Grant project. Lee reported an activity update of two completed houses, one under construction, and six not eligible - three withdrew, one moved, one was over the income limit, and one operated an in-home daycare.

Next meeting

The next city council meeting is Feb. 21. Meeting minutes, public notice of intent to fill council vacancy, and max levy hearing can all be found on the city’s website, or in the legal section of this paper.

Candra Brooks

A native of rural Union County, Candra holds a Bachelor's Degree in English from Simpson College and an Associate's Degree in Accounting from SWCC. She has been at the Osceola newspaper since October 2013, working as office manager before transitioning to the newsroom in spring 2022.