The Peoria City Council met July 13, 2021 with all Council members present except John Kelly.
City Manager Urich informed Councilors that a public engagement survey would be posted on the city’s website to invite residents to give input on how the city should spend remaining state and local Coronavirus relief funds.
The city was awarded $47,089,976, with $10,301,585 spent in June to eliminate need to issue cash bond and curtail furloughs for city employees. Three public hearings will be scheduled, as well, for public input with one being virtual. Dates for public hearings are:
July 26 at 6 p.m. live streamed on city u-tube channel;
August 1 at 6 p.m. at Peoria North Branch Library; and
August 12 at 6 p.m. at Lincoln Branch Library.
In addition, paper copies of the survey will be available at all Peoria Library locations. The survey will be available until 5 p.m. August 19. City Manager Urich will give an update on public input at the August 24 meeting. Funds must be committed to specific projects by the end of 2024 and funds spent by end of 2026.
Interim Corporation Counsel Peterson updated councilors on additional measures and consequences for tobacco, liquor and retail gasoline dealer licenses due to rise in violence at some businesses. Among the options are fines, suspension or revoking licenses. The council also discussed consequences on license holders for unpaid fines, and the effect proposed changes would have on majority of license holders who are not a cause for concern. The Council will discuss this issue again at the July 27 meeting.
Panhandling and solicitation concerns were addressed next. Councilor Grayeb thanked legal department staff for research on Federal law regarding these two issues. He referred to existing laws that would prevent pedestrians from standing in the street and that the city and police should work on plan to enforce these laws. Discussion included motivations for increase in panhandling, as well as, how this could affect local non-profit groups and safety issues of pedestrians. First Amendment rights and enforcing existing laws was concern. Counsel Peterson clarified that the Supreme Court has looked at panhandling and public safety as separate issues and gave examples of two municipalities addressing prohibition of pedestrian traffic at specific locations based on local data related to collision reports and statistics. A change in ordinance would prohibit all pedestrian traffic at specified intersections and would need to be enforced for all citizens equally. The council voted to receive and file the report.
Connie Romanus, Observer
On April 13, 2021, the Peoria City Council approved the following by Omnibus Vote:
In unfinished business, the council adopted Ordinance updating the City Code for Short Term Rental Uses after many months of delay. Currently, short term rentals through Airbnb, VRBO and other websites by owner of home are not been legal in Peoria. Under this agreement, home owners wanting to rent room or single- family home would have to live in home in order to meet guidelines for rental. Property not lived in by an owner would require a special use permit to rent out the home. In addition, existing covenants or rules of neighborhood associations could prohibit rentals. Currently, hotel taxes are not collected on rentals; Airbnb has reported it would collect hotel taxes from property owners if city required that, forwarding funds to the City. In addition, Airbnb would work with Peoria Police Department through law enforcement portal for any issues on property rented through Airbnb.
On a final note, Council Person Riggenbach questioned safety of panhandlers at busy intersections. Interim Corporation Counsel, Chrissie Peterson, related that it is difficult to enforce limitations on this but that it should be done in safe manner. She will provide report back at next meeting. Ms. Peterson reported the ACLU has upheld protection for individuals holding a sign and soliciting money on public property and prohibits discrimination of these persons.
Connie Romanus, Observer
Public Hearing for Annual Town Meeting for Township of Peoria will be held at City Hall on Tuesday, April 13, 2021 at 6:00 PM. This will include Town Budget, Appropriation Ordinance and Annual Meeting of Town Board of Trustees.
The Council members approved resolution to remove access restriction to Jamestown Road for multi-family residential development on W. King James RD and N. Queen Frances Lane; road improvement project for Northmoor Rd. from Allen Rd. to University St.; denied liquor license at neighborhood grocery store at 1500 NE Jefferson - the business owner was referred to Economic Development for assistance, as well as the small business development program through Bradley University.
After several delays, the Council passed Ordinance designating an area of urban decay and adopting tax abatement for portions of the north valley and south side of Peoria. Councilperson John Kelly has proposed this as a means to invest in the neighborhoods and encourage building and improve land values in the area. Taxes would be paid on value of land but not on new construction for first six years; taxes on new construction would be phased in years seven though ten. Kelly sees this program as an opportunity to recognize and increase the property values in the area for all owners. This measure was opposed by Council Persons Moore, Jenson and Ali. Council Person Moore was concerned about effect on Peoria Public Schools which could be impacted by loss of tax revenue by abatement.
Finally, the Council unanimously deferred Ordinance to approve special use General Commercial use of property at 1217 W. Glen Ave. and 4926 N. University until April 13, 2021.
Connie Romanus, Observer
Wow. The Consent Agenda passed with no one removing an item. Of course there were only 4 items on that agenda. Short meeting – an hour and 17 minutes.
Recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Commission and Staff to ADOPT an ORDINANCE Amending Appendix A, the Unified Development Code, relating to short term rentals in all residential zoning was deferred until Aug 11.
Recommended 2020 - 2021 BUDGET RESTRUCTURING as a Result of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Council has provided direction to reduce capital programs by $26.7 million and restructure January 1, 2021 debt payments of approximately $10 million and the issuance of a $20 million line of credit and/or working cash bond. At the May 12th Council meeting, Council directed the Manager to come back with a recommended $10 million in operational cuts.
A total debt service package of $30 million would require additional resources to repay the debt. The additional $2 million needed to restructure debt could be absorbed by existing revenues, however the $20 million of working capital would need a repayment source. Assuming that source was property taxes, the increase would cost the owner of a $100,000 an additional $66.66 per year.
The recommended operating reductions which will result in service reductions include staff reductions of 94 employees, contractual and supply reductions of $3.3 million. The position reductions include 37 vacant positions across the organization and 57 positions that would be reduced by layoff.
Voluntary separation for firefighters with 20 years of service was deferred to Aug 11 ($25,000 incentive toward health insurance premiums for early separation if processed in August.)
The 50-year storm last week created havoc in Councilwoman Moore’s district. Homeowners have had issues of water backup into their homes.
Cheryl Budzinski, Observer
The meeting was almost four hours long. Many of their recent meetings have been that longer.
You are aware of the gaping hole in the city’s budget and the two proposals the councilpersons are considering regarding staffing. Well more that one person also commented that staff reductions are not the only consideration, they will be considering raising taxes since staffing changes will not completely fix the budget.
Council approved recommended appointments to 22 committees and commissions including seven for the CDBG Public Service Advisory Commission and eight for the Advisory Committee on Police and Community Relations. (Past president Farrell Davies was reappointed to CDBG.)
Short Term Rentals STR was discussed at length. The city had indicated they would require a “special use” permit to allow VRBO’s, Air B’n’B’s, etc. to operate in our residential areas. But, they are proposing (First Reading) 20-182 STR’s be an allowed Commercial Use within all residentially zoned areas in the city subject to the properties paying hotel license, hotel tax, and comply with life safety codes. One question unanswered, was if these are not allowed by restrictive covenants of a Homeowners Association, can they operate within that neighborhood? There are many of these currently in operation.
Cheryl Budzinski, Observer
Oct 22 meeting (Ruckregal absent) Public Hearing regarding the 2020-21 Biennial Budget had two people speak: Downtown Development Board requested funding in the budget as had been done previous years; Peoria Area Assoc of Realtors requested there be no increase in property taxes – the city should find additional sources of revenue.
Oct 8 meeting (Jensen absent most of meeting) had several interesting discussions:
The council approved a resolution Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Illinois being the first state to ratify the 19th Amendment Allowing Women to Vote for Elective Office. Councilwomen Jensen and Ali spoke to the motion.
There were a lot of questions about the Township report. Large Ameren expenses and legal expenses were questioned. Supervisor Abdnour responded.
The Nov 27, 2018 meeting continued the budget discussion. Of particular note, Councilman Montelongo had asked to look at specific parts of both expenses and revenue. Specifically, they looked at eight expenses that support other agencies: Springdale, Animal Control, Convention and Visitors Bureau, Civic Center, Debt Service, Downtown Development Comm, Peoria Area Economic Development Council, and Minority Employment Action Team. Representatives of most of those agencies answered questions from Council and presented their work. None were cut, but it was interesting to look at other areas besides cutting Public Safety.
7/24/2018: The big item was Manager Urich announced they were looking for $600,000 in cuts to expenses.
Councilwoman Moore requested a deferral of regular business item 18-231 which was to amend the Biennial Budget to use the Storm Water Utility Fund to purchase the Simantel property at the foot of Spring Street for $159,000. This was interesting because exactly what is the City Council allowed to spend the Storm Water Utility money on??
Cheryl Budzinski, Observer
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