The People's Tribune

Louisiana Council Tackles Lodging Issues For Upcoming Bridge Work

Mayor Introduces Candidate To Fill Empty Council Seat

Members of the Louisiana City Council addressed the issues of accommodating laborers who will be in the area during the upcoming bridge project at their committee meetings last night (Monday, June 12).

Since it was announced the Champ Clark Bridge would be replaced beginning this summer, council members have been examining the current lodging situation and ways to accommodate as many as possible in Louisiana for the duration of the project. The city stands to gain from increased sales taxes and fees. Private individuals also have a stake in how the council chooses to craft new or temporary ordinances that will allow for those who live out of RVs and travel trailers during such large-scale projects.

“We want to pull out the red carpet and take care of these folks,” remarked council member Tim Jackson, who introduced the topic at the meeting.

Mayor Bart Niedner noted the importance of crafting responsible guidelines both for the temporary and long-term. He suggested examining how other municipalities are dealing with short-term lodging following the popularity of companies such as Airbnb.

“This has a time frame that needs addressed,” Jackson cautioned.

Niedner suggested a joint meeting with the council and planning and zoning committee within the next month. The bridge replacement project is slated to get off the ground later this summer. The contractor will be selected and announced by MoDOT at the end of the month. Niedner pointed out the city should have more information about work schedules and the number of laborers anticipated at that time. The project is expected to be completed in late 2019.

Jackson provided council members present at the meeting on Monday with copies of the current ordinance governing RVs and other travel trailer vehicles. He said that he has worked with the city’s code enforcement officer, Jeff Windmiller, on some preliminary ideas.

The city currently has at least three lots that would accommodate several RVs. Right now the limit is one per lot. The council will consider increasing that number. Jackson suggested breaking down the number allowed by square footage. Considering the standard length of a recreational vehicle with slide-out features and parking for a separate vehicle it appears 825 square feet are needed per space (55’x15’). Those with lots may be able to take on as many as that formula would allow.

Council members also discussed how to best handle water and sewer hook-ups, garbage collection and electricity. Several voiced concerns about having hoses and wires simply run from a residence. It was suggested the city also look at other cities that have crafted successful ordinance and zoning controls.

The council also tackled whether rules should be temporary for the bridge project or opt for more permanent measures.

City attorney Robert Rapp advised the council to be cognizant of emergency vehicle access and maneuverability. Windmiller also pointed out that off-street parking will have to be examined.

Jackson further proposed establishing a permit fee for those staying in Louisiana for the duration of the project. He offered that the fee should be adequate to cover city expenses and show a professional-level of commitment from the potential lodger.

Council members agreed that there should be a sunset clause in any temporary agreements made to change the current ordinance.

“We’re all in agreement we need to figure it out and do it,” said council member Lori Lewis.

In other business, Mayor Niedner said there may be a route to a complete overhaul of the city branch. He said that talks are in a preliminary stage with FEMA, but it appears the entire branch could be addressed. Niedner shared his enthusiasm at the prospect that a deal could be struck. He reiterated that plans are still in a preliminary stage.

The council had a quorum for the finance, public safety and enterprise committees.

It appears the council will be full again soon. Niedner announced his intent to appoint Racheal White to the seat that was recently vacated by Chris Koetters. That will take place at the regular council meeting that will take place on Monday, June 26.

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