2018-2019 Projects

Linn County Wind Farm Suitability Analysis

Project Leader: Les Beck, Director, Linn County Planning and Development

Project description

In conjunction with officials from Linn County Iowa, the planning team will complete a Wind Farm Suitability Analysis study for the unincorporated Linn County area. 

Wind farms, while predominantly located in northwestern Iowa, may begin to expand to the eastern side of the state with advances in technology. While wind energy is a popular option for sustainable power, it also requires the placement of large wind turbines that are expensive and can be logistically challenging to site. This analysis will identify current technologies and trends, as well as federal, state, and local-level plans, and conclude whether a utility-scale wind farm would be feasible for Linn County. The analysis will also include a spatial analysis of Linn County in order to determine an ideal location(s) for a potential wind farm, in keeping with environmental, land use, and public opinion constraints. The final deliverable will also include policy and procedural recommendations for the county, and will detail the anticipated site-specific and community impacts of wind farm placement and construction, including impacts on market prices, the natural environment, transportation and utility infrastructure, and more. 

Public input will be essential in constructing spatial constraints, and will generally help identify attitudes toward wind energy production in the county.  he process may include interviews, focus groups, public forums, and/or a survey of residents. Key stakeholders include business leaders, elected officials, developers, the farming community, utility providers, and more.   

The planning team will consider how wind energy fits in the broader context of renewable energy production throughout the county, including but not limited to solar, biofuel, and hydroelectric.

Additional information

Blackhawk County (northwest of Linn County) recently approved a special permit for a proposed wind farm, which will be located south of Waterloo. With wind farm projects reaching the eastern border of the state, Linn County seeks to be ahead of the curve in regards to potential applications. (Article: http://bit.ly/BlackhawkWind)

The Iowa Utilities Board regulates the development of wind farms in Iowa. The regulatory requirements will need to be consulted for this project.

The planning team will review the Linn County 2013 Comprehensive Plan in order to learn about planning efforts and policies in the county. 

The planning team will also need to review plans of local cities as necessary for the completion of the project.

Links

 

Iowa City Automated Vehicle Adaptation and Equity Plan 

Project Leader: Darian Nagle-Gamm, Transportation Director, City of Iowa City

Alumni Mentor:  Ashley McDonald, Project Manager, Automated Vehicle Driving Systems, National Advanced Driving Simulator, University of Iowa

Project Description

In conjunction with the City of Iowa City and National Advance Driving Simulator, the planning team will complete a plan to help Iowa City prepare for the anticipated impacts of automated vehicles on the built environment and community.

This project will focus on increasing availability of ride hailing services and automated vehicles (AV) and associated changes in mobility services and urban space. Specifically, the project will examine allocation of urban space and public transport in Iowa City as mobility technologies evolve, and the equity implications of those changes. Though the range of possibilities is wide and final recommendations will need to be developed though research and stakeholder input, three preliminary focus areas include:  

  • An economic and equity analysis of the potential for subsidized ride hailing services to fill gaps in current public transportation offerings, expand access to jobs and healthcare, and meet daily needs for disadvantaged and mobility challenged individuals. Findings from this work will be used to inform Iowa City’s upcoming Transit Route Study. 
  • A parking and complete streets plan related to the phased implementation and expansion of AV and ride-sharing drop off areas and the associated reallocation of downtown parking and road space. 
  • A land use and transportation study to guide staged implementation and integration of exclusive pedestrian and low-speed AV traffic zones in Iowa City and implications for urban land use. 

The partner for the project will be the City of Iowa City, and the final planning documents will provide policy guidance to the city in the areas of public transportation services, parking, street design, and land use. The final plan will provide both medium term (5-10 year) and long term (10-20 year) recommendations to decision makers and stakeholders. 

Additional Information

In 2017, the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids Corridor, in partnership with the UI National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS), was designated by the U.S. DOT as one of ten automated vehicle proving grounds nationwide. This designation encourages data collection and infrastructure development that will facilitate the deployment of automated vehicle technology in the region. Working in concert with NADS and the City of Iowa City, the planning team will help to guide multi-faceted changes in the urban environment and ensure that AV technology provides equitable improvements in mobility and livability for all. 

Links

 

Webster City Parks & Recreation Plan 

Project Leader: Kent Harfst, City of Webster City Parks & Recreation Director

Project Description

Working in collaboration with the City of Webster City Parks & Recreation Department, the planning team will complete a Parks & Recreation Plan for Webster City that promotes appropriate land use, active lifestyles, equity, accessibility, environmental protection, and tourism.

For a town its size, Webster City (pop. 7,877) offers a great deal of open space and outdoor recreational opportunities. The community’s parks and recreation system includes eight quality parks, bicycle & walking trails, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and several access points to the popular Boone River. 

The significance of the river is evident in Webster City’s tagline “Boone River Country”. Providing opportunities for hiking, fishing, canoeing and kayaking, the river is one of the community’s most beloved amenities. 

However, city officials recognize the need to reimagine, update, and improve the park system in order to best serve residents and visitors, particularly as they expect to see a considerable increase in population due to a new large employer in the area. Several new amenities have been mentioned, including whitewater kayaking on the Boone River, a splash pad in East Twin Park, new trail development and connectivity, and camping facilities (namely, rental yurts) in Kendall Young Park, and a new disc golf course.

Webster City parks serve other purposes in addition to recreation. For example, Riverside Park has a newly constructed wetland for stormwater management, and city officials are considering housing development for Hospital Hill, large greenspace in the center of town.  Additionally, torn-down dilapidated structures downtown present new opportunities for pocket parks in the commercial district. The planning team will consider a variety of uses for parks and open space in the context of other broad community objectives, such as downtown development, stormwater management, water quality, and housing.  Additional focus areas may include, capital investments and financing, funding sources, maintenance, design, education, ecology, marketing, policy, etc.

The planning process will include the collection and analysis of available relevant information; data analysis to determine inventory and condition of current facilities; determination of supply and demand within the community; and recommendations for meeting the needs of the community through an analysis of improved programs and facilities. Public input will be essential to development of the plan. The process may include interviews, focus groups, public forums, and/or a survey of residents. 

Additional Information

A new pork processing facility is expected to create about 900 direct jobs in Wright County and over 3,700 direct + spillover jobs in the region. The facility is located about 13 miles outside of Webster City.  An influx of new families, many of whom will likely be immigrants, necessitates planning for growth and change in Webster City. 

Webster City was chosen as the IISC community partner for the 2018-19 academic year. IISC will partner with the community on 10-15 projects, presenting opportunities for collaboration and coordination of activities across a variety of disciplines and UI departments. Several projects, particularly a marketing project and civil & environmental projects, will be directly related to the parks & rec plan. 

Links

 

Webster City Downtown Strategic Plan 

Project Leader: Lindsay Henderson, City of Webster City Community Vitality Director

Project Description

Working in collaboration with the Webster City Community Vitality director and the local business community, the planning team will complete a strategic plan to revitalize the downtown commercial district through small business growth, building improvements, residential development, and strategies to attract residents and visitors to the area.

Like many communities across the Midwest, Webster City struggled with the loss of their largest employer, Electrolux, a washer and dryer manufacturing facility. After the company closure in 2011, Webster City went through a period of decline, losing downtown businesses and seemingly an element of their community identity. By the spring of 2013, the downtown district had a surplus of vacant storefronts and morale was low across the community.

Despite the hardship, Webster City is making a positive comeback through grassroots efforts. Many of the residents who lost their factory jobs went back to school to learn new skills and remain rooted in the community. There have been several new business developments and new investments in the community. The main street has seen a flourish of new business after going through a period of near vacancy. A key turning point occurred when a grassroots movement turned non-profit raised funds to refurbish and reopen the town’s movie theater, one of many businesses lost after the plant closure. Business and community leaders are exploring new ways to revitalize the downtown, including public art and a “cooperative brewery”.  Furthermore, the community can expect to see a considerable increase in population due to a new large employer in the area.

The timing of the plan is important for two reasons: an upcoming vote to renew the Webster City Self-Supported Municipal Improvement District (SSMID), and a considerable increase in population due to a new large employer in the area. 

In the late 1990s, the downtown invested in a major streetscaping, lighting, and sidewalk project on main street through the SSMID. Since that time, little more has been done by the SSMID or the city to make further improvements downtown. With the SSMID up for renewal next year, a downtown revitalization plan will help ensure that the SSMID is renewed and that funds are better utilized along with public and private investments in order to make significant and transformative improvements in the district.  

Secondly, a new pork processing facility is expected to create about 900 direct jobs in Wright County and over 3,700 direct + spillover jobs in the region. The facility is located about 13 miles outside of Webster City. An influx of new families, many of whom will likely be immigrants, necessitates planning for growth and change in Webster City, with a particular need to create a welcoming and vibrant downtown district. 

The planning team will complete a plan that supports improvements to commercial buildings, enhances downtown public amenities, creates a unique sense of place, and recommend strategies that make downtown Webster City a great place to live, work, shop, and visit.  Special focus areas that might be appropriate for the downtown plan include: upper story residential development, market analysis, business retention, recruitment, and expansion, quality of life amenities,­­­­ financing models and programming, open/public spaces; public art, and more. In particular, the planning team will help introduce design standards to guide façade improvements, signage, and new development. Community partners included the following list to be considered for the final deliverables:

  • Conduct an environmental analysis for downtown Webster City.
  • Compare Webster City to other cities of similar size, and discover distinct characteristics for Webster City.
  • Identify specific market trends and target audiences.
  • Recommend types of businesses/industries to recruit to the downtown area.
  • Marketing methods of attracting new retailers to the downtown area.
  • Help create a design code for downtown buildings.
  • Create a strategic plan and timeline for downtown revitalization.

A strategic plan typically includes specific, measurable strategies and identifies responsible parties, funding requirements, available resources, timelines, and evaluation metrics.  

Additional Information

Webster City was chosen as the IISC community partner for the 2018-19 academic year. IISC will partner with the community on 10-15 projects, presenting opportunities for collaboration and coordination of activities across a variety of disciplines and UI departments. Several projects, particularly a community impact investing project with the Clinical Law Program and a mural project, will be relevant to the downtown master plan. 

Links

  • The point of sale company Square made an emotionally moving short film about Webster City’s story called “Made in Iowa”.
  • Main Street Iowa (Webster City is not a Main Street community, although the state organization is a good resource for best practices)