Lansing City Council adopts new construction moratorium, supports Downtown Housing Grant application

by Julie Berg-Raymond

At its regular meeting Monday, January 3, the Lansing City Council voted to adopt Ordinance No. 201 “prohibiting the building or construction of structures within the City of Lansing,” following Mayor Melissa Hammell’s third and final public reading of the ordinance. The action was undertaken while review and revision of the City of Lansing Code of Ordinances is being completed.

Prior to the council’s vote, a citizen concern was raised, asking for clarification about the moratorium’s effect on an ongoing construction project. Councilman Curtis Snitker explained ongoing construction with permits in place are not affected by the resolution. Mayor Hammell noted the moratorium would only remain in place until revision of the Lansing City Code of Ordinances is finished, and City Clerk Katie Becker said that process would probably be completed by the end of February. She said the council has had two work sessions with Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission and will have one more session before presenting the new Code to the citizens of Lansing.

Following presentations by Main Street Executive Director Andy Kelleher and Nick Hammell, owner of the Safehouse Saloon building in downtown Lansing, the council approved supporting Nick Hammell in his effort to submit an application for an Iowa Economic Development Association (IEDA) downtown housing grant. The grant, which was designed to create new housing opportunities in communities with populations under 30,000, would provide up to $300,000 in funding, if awarded. The grant would require a 25 percent match provided by either the grant recipient or the City; the City must be the grant applicant.

Nick Hammell told the council he has secured full funding for his 25 percent match on the approximately $125,000 project, which involves conversion of the back two-thirds of his building into a two-bedroom apartment.

Kelleher noted that, after sending out information about the grant to all downtown building owners, he received two proposals - one from Mike Conway, owner of the building housing Milty’s, and one from Nick Hammell. Conway’s proposal involved shoring up a wall in his building. Of the two proposals, Kelleher indicated he thought Hammell’s would be the more competitive of the two.

According to the website for Iowa Economic Development (, eligible projects would include the following: “Upper floor rehabilitation for housing; Structural stabilization of historic downtown buildings; Exterior building improvements relating to the housing project; Code and accessibility improvements for apartments; Exterior building amenities that directly complement the housing project (e.g. patios, tenant parking, etc.). Residential units must have some interior amenity component (e.g. rooftop patios, laundry, LED lighting, High Efficiency HVAC, etc.).”

The website further indicates ineligible projects as including the following: “Projects that include first floor storefront housing or residential temporary lodging; Projects located outside of the downtown district vicinity; Projects that do not include a housing element; Acquisition costs not considered part of the project costs or eligible expenses.”

Grant applications are due Monday, January 31; the grant awards will be announced March 23. The project would have to be completed within two years of receiving the award.

The council reviewed and considered a site plan and bid sheet for the Walleser addition, submitted “for informational purposes only” by Mohn Surveying, Inc. of Lansing. No action is being taken at this time.

After being asked to review and consider the “safety issue” of a retaining wall at 691 Front Street, the council voted to require the property owner to paint the edge of the wall yellow.

With new council members now in place at this first meeting of the new year, Mayor Hammell announced as new committee assignments the following: Streets, Alleys, Sidewalks - Manning, ReVoir; Water, Sewer, Street Lights - Snitker, Murray; Grounds, Buildings, Parks, Marina - Manning, ReVoir; Swimming Pool, Summer Rec - Welsh, ReVoir; Budget, Planning, Development - Snitker, Murray; Public Safety Ordinance - Manning, Murray; Administration - Snitker, Welsh; Personnel - all. Councilperson Snitker was designated Mayor Pro-Tem.

City Clerk Becker set the first budget meeting for 4:30 p.m., Monday, January 10. The next regular meeting of the Lansing City Council is scheduled for Monday, January 17, at 7 p.m., at Lansing City Hall.