Entries Tagged 'Railroads' ↓

Former SF City Councilor Howes shares my frustration

See, I’m not crazy folks. Former city councilor Andy Howes tweeted this morning about the stupidity of the trains crossing Cliff Avenue at the worst possible time. But as I have been told, you can’t do nuttin’ to stop the trains.

Was the RR Relocation project really the biggest accomplishment of the last mayor?

As we have been seeing, there have been some kinks in process. The only prospect to bid on the property so far is having issues with the quartzite and may either pull out all together or drastically change the project.

I have NO information on either.

But recently it has come to light that Bucktooth & Bowlcut may have killed it all together by asking for impossible demands from the Railroad. Of course, as I am finding out, the RR does whatever they want to.

The project was pretty much dead until some other big shots intervened and all the demands were dropped.

Maybe B & B getting the project totally killed would not have been so bad after all? Nothing really has changed for DTSF residents. Still tons of train traffic and noise and questionable storage of cars by the river and parks.

I still maintain that the RR Relocation project was one of the worst negotiated projects in the history of our city.

Trains in the Hood – Photos by Chuck Luden

I saw this the other day by my house in the NEW switching and storage yard by my house. I was going to snap some photos, but Chuck beat me to it;

Good morning,

Here’s a couple recent photos taken near your place.

It shows military tracked cranes.

In my love of trains, seeing military equipment on rail cars is an added bonus.

I refer this area south of 14th Street as the south rail yard.

Don’t know what BNSF calls it.

I suspect this area will see more activity after the downtown yard removal.

Yeah, you are not kidding. (click to enlarge)

City News, Rumors, Odds & Ends

The Glory House rehabilitation apartments are one step closer to opening with the tearing down of the old ice rec center.

BLACK IRON PUTS RAILROAD REDEVELOPMENT PROJECT ON HOLD

I kind of saw this coming;

The couple deferred the final vote to review costs.

Power’s say the Billion’s are revising their plan and changes will be made.

As I understand it, it was going to be very costly to provide underground parking due to quartzite issues, so I’m sure they are trying to revise the parking situation to include it above ground in the planned structure. But I’m not sure. I do know that the city requested the building be a certain amount of stories (6?) due to density and there may me a disagreement on just how that may be done with including above ground parking. I never understand why developers want to get involved with private/public partnerships with the city.

SHOULD THE SIOUX STEEL REDEVELOPMENT PROJECT GET A TIF?

There has been rumor floating around from city hall that a TIF may be applied to this project. Now while you may argue that the land Sioux Steel currently sits on is probably contaminated due to decades of manufacturing and this would be classified as ‘blight’ do you think it is fair to give a tax rebate to developers who contributed to that blight to begin with? Kind of a philosophical/ethical question. While we know clean up will have to occur before redeveloping the site I suggest applying for EPA grants and NOT taking away money from public education in the form of TIFs.

PLANNING DIRECTOR MIKE COOPER PLANS PRESENTATION ON JOINT JURISDICTION

Mike is going to address the Sioux Falls City Council about the purpose of joint jurisdiction after the recent fluff up over the wedding barn. The city must be getting nervous that the Minnehaha County Commission may be planning to withdraw from the ‘Polite’ agreement.

AFTER YEARS OF STRUGGLING WITH SIRE TO WORK PROPERLY, CITY DECIDES TO RENEW CONTRACT WITH THE CRAPPY SERVICE

Not sure why the City Clerk decided to renew this contract with all the problems with the service?

PARKS DEPARTMENT MOVES AHEAD WITH $200K CONTROVERSIAL CONSULTING CONTRACT AFTER ALL

Even after the city council told them to explore other options the Parks Department (director) convinced the TenHaken administration they still needed the studies done. So much for the legislative body’s input on this one. I also find it ironic we are seeking a parks accreditation but don’t seek the similar credentials for our police department. Because you know, green grass is far more important than public safety . . .

GENERAL PUBLIC INPUT RETURNS TO PLANNING COMMISSION MEETINGS AFTER CHIDING FROM DETROIT LEWIS

I posed this question to Head City Attorney Stacy Kooistra this week in an email;

Stacy,

I noticed after state law changed concerning public input that the planning commission started having public ‘general’ input at the end of the meeting. They did it for a couple of meetings than in last week’s meeting they did not do it (only on agenda items).

While I understand that maybe NO ONE came and spoke that doesn’t mean it can be eliminated. In fact in my 12 years or more of attending city council meetings there were several meetings in which people did not speak, but it still is offered.

I am wondering why they ended offering this at the planning meetings?

Stacy responded to me that he would meet with planning staff to discuss. I got this response today from Jason Bieber, Urban Planner in the Planning department;

Scott,

Thank you for the email regarding the agenda item for Public Input at the monthly Planning Commission meeting.    As indicated in SDCL 1-25-1, “The Chair of the body shall reserve at every official meeting by the public body a period for public comment, limited at the chair’s discretion, but not so limited as to provide for no public comment.”  Therefore, our Planning Commission Chairman made the decision to remove the agenda item for Public Input on non-agenda items at our monthly Planning Commission meeting for the simple fact that it had not been utilized by citizens so far.  He also felt that we allow public input at our 12:00pm Planning Commission Briefing the day (Tuesday) before the Planning Commission meeting and that may be a better opportunity for Citizens to provide public input.  In doing public input this way we do comply with SDCL 1-25-1.

This meeting of course, while open to the public, is at city hall with limited parking in the middle of the day on a Tuesday. The meeting is also NOT recorded or live streamed.

After receiving your comments as well as those from Councilmember Stehly, Planning Staff and the Planning Commission Chair have decided to add the Public Input Agenda item back on the Planning Commission Meeting agenda.  Our intent was not to limit Citizen Involvement at our Planning Commission Meetings, but to provide the best avenue for Public Input.

As I mentioned in my original email, doesn’t matter whether anybody shows up or not, as long as an opportunity is provided. The irony is even if NO ONE speaks it only takes a matter of seconds to ask if anyone is present to speak and is little inconvenience to the Planning Commission or their chair.

Thank you for bringing your concern to our attention and we look forward to Citizen Public Input at the November 7th Planning Commission Meeting.

That kind of sounds like an invitation to me. I’ll keep my calendar open that night. I always have plenty to say about planning in this community.

*I would also like to thank Councilor Stehly for looking into this for me initially. We kind of tag teamed this effort.

The train traffic and noise DTSF needs to go

After the presentation of the new development downtown I addressed the council at the informational meeting (at end of meeting). I basically told them as long as the train noise and increased traffic exists it will be detrimental to further development downtown. I also said it was time for our Washington delegation to get off their duffs and have a conversation with BNSF about moving the switching and storage of cars out of DTSF.

Billion’s to have first RR redevelopment project

Image: siouxfalls.business

The announcement was just made minutes ago;

The first project to redevelop part of the downtown rail yard is envisioned as a mix of commercial and residential that would enhance the area around 8th & Railroad Center.

The development will be owned by Black Iron Railyard, LLC, which is led by David and Erika Billion.

Erika and Dave had told me over a year ago they were going to submit to the RFP and were greatly interested in the property behind the 8th and RR center that they currently own. I am actually glad to see they were awarded(?) the RFP, and for once it wasn’t the same old group of developers.

Obviously, the City Council will still have to approve the project, but like I mentioned last week, the ball is already rolling.

It will be interesting to hear if there will be any controversy over this project. The only thing I would be concerned about is building residential less than 100 feet from an active train track. There has been a promise this area will become ‘whistle free’, something that should have been negotiated to begin with. We will have to wait and see how the turd polishing goes.

Railroad Redevelopment Project Secrecy plays out like the old administration

Funny how some things don’t change in community development even with Jeff and Mutt gone.

There is a big announcement on Monday about the first project in the RR Redevelopment area, and mums the word. (Rumor has it that members of the Billion family who own the adjacent 8th and RR building won the RFP. Not sure if this is true, it could be a myriad of developers, but I do know they were very interested in the property). But like the former administration, the council was left out of the negotiations. In other words, they have NO idea who was picked, or why they were picked, but need to vote to approve the selection.

Apparently we haven’t learned much about the RFP process and how secrecy hurts that process.

I also find the timing of this announcement interesting after hearing TenHaken’s COS, Beck, talk in the news about better ‘educating’ the public about the value of TIFs. Sorry, Erica, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. It has been proven time and time again, all a TIF really is, is a tax rebate for the developer building the project, and by the time the TIF matures, that developer has sold the property and moved on, while getting a massive discount.

Are the Railroads blowing smoke?

So I got this email forwarded to me by a city councilor yesterday, I’m not sure who sent them this (SF public works or BNSF) but I found it a bit humorous, to say the least;

We evaluated the potential changes to railroad operations as part of the Environmental Assessment (EA) for the project.  There is a BNSF Sioux Falls Operations Plan that is in the appendix of the EA.  It was anticipated that an extra 2 to 5 rail cars per month would need to utilize this area for parking and storage due to the track removal in the downtown yard.

If there is additional train traffic above this estimated amount, it is likely due to a higher customer demand, not because of the Rail Yard Redevelopment project.  For instance, Egger Steel is one of the businesses served by the track in this neighborhood and may be receiving or shipping additional steel due to market needs.

It’s no secret, Former Mayor Bucktooh & Bowlcut used to tell some pretty tall tales, but, after reading this, it is no surprise to me that the two (BNSF) negotiated the worst agreement in the history of our city.

First off, I don’t think I have ever thought the RR Redevelopment project has been causing the extra cars to be parked in the area, my point is that we should have negotiated that NO cars can be parked in the area. We gave BNSF millions to build a new switchyard out of downtown, why don’t they use it?

As for the 2 to 5 cars, LMFAO! If you go by the Nelson Park skate park or just North of Avera you will see between 40-60 cars parked in those area’s over the weekend and throughout the week. Are some of them steel cars? A few, I guess, but most are grain, lumber and biofuel cars.

I fully understand that we will still have to have rail traffic through downtown due to the suppliers, but I question why we need to park and switch these cars in this area? Seems the Railroads are blowing a lot of smoke.

Doon, IA train derailment cause not determined yet

I think we have some pretty good guesses though;

“The cause of the accident hasn’t been determined yet. It’s easy to assume that it was flood-related and that may be very well what caused it, but we’re not going to make an assumption at this point,” Williams said.

I find it interesting that the FEDS haven’t said the cause yet. Where are our investigative reporters when you need them? The stories coming from Doon shortly after the derailment was that the train decided to cross the tracks that were covered with water. Why?

I would think that protocol would say NOT to do such a thing, or at least send a test vehicle across the water covered tracks first to look for damage. With the massive cleanup effort I suspect that BNSF knows exactly what happened and are trying to ‘cleanup’ or at least ‘coverup’ the mistake. The public deserves an answer ASAP, but will we ever hear it?

We should have negotiated RR quiet zones Downtown

Rapid City is showing they have a lot more vision than Sioux Falls by proposing quiet zones Downtown;

The city’s railroad quiet zone task force will meet next week to discuss funding for the project. A final report is expected within the next two months.

City officials will need to file a notice of intent with the Federal Railroad Administration and railroad companies once a quiet zone option is approved.

Harrington said Rapid City would be the first town or city in the state to implement a railroad quiet zone policy should it move forward.

As I have stated numerous times, the RR Redevelopment Project in DTSF was one of the worst negotiated projects in the history of the city. Besides the fact that we probably bought land from the RR that we probably already owned (Federal easements) we did nothing to limit train traffic DT or at least limit the noise. Of the millions we handed over to the RR for basically $62 a square foot dirty land, we didn’t have the vision to set aside some money to create quiet zones downtown. This SHOULD have been a part of the deal.

DECIBAL PROBLEM STILL OCCURRING DOWNTOWN

I was surprised to see the problems are still around;

Neitzert said he may wait to see if the ICON has any issues throughout the summer and in the meantime, slow the tempo on composing a new ordinance, but still thinks downtown maybe eventually need to change its key.

“It does seem like downtown needs something different, because the noise ordinance is written really well for other areas that aren’t mixed use, neighborhoods that are all residential,” Neitzert said. “But again the question is, what is the something?”

Ironically its airplanes, trains and first responders that cause the most noise, the decibel level does need to change downtown, funny how this stuff gets killed without little explanation. Kind of like moving public input without an informal public meeting about it. I had the opportunity to go inside one of the bigger condos in the building. While this one did not have a west side patio, it did have several west side windows. I was there for about an hour and the only sound I could hear from outside was a faint police car siren that was driving past the coliseum, but it was so faint you would not even notice it. I’m thinking having the patios on the west side are what may be causing some of the noise issues. My suggestion? Close you patio door.