Home » Government » Council approves Alley Cat Alley project at Sept 14th meeting

Council approves Alley Cat Alley project at Sept 14th meeting

Looking north the Alley proposes to include a rock climbing wall. The project will be done on a three month trial basis beginning this Spring. Courtesy Photo

Council approvs a three-month trial of the “activation” of an alley near the Copper Hen to create a public outdoor space called Alley Cat Alley. It is slated to open in the spring

Thea Wilshire, representing the I Art Globe group, commented on the proposal. Prior to the meeting, Thea had filed a request on behalf of I Art Globe for a special event permit that would allow the Alley Cat Alley to happen. City staff denied the request but encouraged I Art Globe to appeal, to give the project another opportunity.

As background, Jepson said the City has a special event committee which works through an administrative process to consider special event requests. He said the committee had discussed some concerns about the alley project, and I Art Globe had made some adjustments in response to those concerns. However, at the special event committee’s second meeting, they decided to deny the request. Tonight, I Art Globe appealed that denial and Council decided to approve a three-month trial of the project.

Thea said the idea came about because the need for more outdoor event space during COVID. She said similar projects, where communities “activate” alleys by adding seating, lighting, and art, are succeeding around the country.

Thea said the specific alley is being underused because it’s too narrow for trash trucks to move down it and is inaccessible to vehicles. Cobre Valley Center for the Arts supports the idea, and BHP and Freeport-McMoRan are offering funding and volunteer hours to help improve the alley.

Business owners and occupants have also been supportive, according to Thea, and the community in general has been supportive and excited.

Thea pointed out that the City asked her to apply for an event request, but this project isn’t an event, it’s a use of public space. The process for event requests doesn’t really work for this situation, because the alley project has both risks and benefits that need to be weighed against each other.

“This idea is so novel that we’ve never had to examine something like this before.”Thea Wilshire, I Art Globe

An artists rendition of the proposed Alley Cat space. Courtesy Photo

The following are concerns raised by the City and the response from the I Art Globe in presenting to Council. 

1No planters or spool tables will be allowed: Those were taken out of the final application.

2Children’s games might cause children to come and play unsupervised: I Art Globe wants to encourage people to come and use the space, such as playing there or bringing take-out food and eating it there.

3The planned interactive chalkboard might be abused or be vandalized: Thea feels this is a risk worth taking, because it’s equally possible people will take care of the space, as they do at the dog park and other City spaces.

4Who will be responsible for maintenance and repair of amenities? Local businesses have agreed to monitor the alley on a daily basis and contact I Art Globe in case of any problems.

5Applicant is requesting the City take on maintenance responsibility: The only action that I Art Globe is requesting from the City is to add two new trash cans. Thea pointed out that the City already has responsibility for this alley, and having more activity happen in the alley might actually help keep the space clean and thereby relieve the City of some of that burden. As the situation is now, existing trash cans are blocking the alley, and people are dumping in them.

6The Police Department is concerned that additional amenities will create a destination that attracts members of the transient population to congregate, and that there will be no property owners available after hours to respond to people using the amenities as living facilities. Thea said the problem of people using the alley as living space already exists, and this project would help solve it. Adding lighting and having more activity there will help decrease the current problems. Thea pointed out that the alley will become a City park, with curfew hours just like other City parks. The City could then post hours of operation, giving police a new tool to use when they intervene if people use the park after hours.

7The Fire Department is concerned about needing immediate access to investigate emergency calls for Broad Street businesses, and also is concerned about the material content of amenities placed against the buildings. Thea said the height and width of the alley will remain the same as it is now. The alley currently has fire risks from weeds and trash.

8A concern was expressed about access to utilities for inspection, troubleshooting, and repair (water, sewer, APS, Southwest Gas, Century Line, and Sparklight). Thea said all of these utilities will have the same access that they do now. People who use the alley space would need to step out of the way when utilities need access.

9In response to concerns about potential unintentional or intentional damage to items in the alley such as gas meters and fuse boxes, Thea said this problem already exists. These items have been accessible for decades and will not become any more of an attractive nuisance than they already are. I Art Globe is proposing creating decorative protective metal surrounds to fit around gas meters, with Southwest Gas’s approval.

10City staff expressed the opinion that with the amount of utility infrastructure and hazards in the alley, it would be irresponsible encourage public gatherings there. Thea said the concept of activating alleys is happening across the country, and research proves the benefits: “Research has shown that alley activation decreases crime, increases property value, increases positive public presence, enhances safety, stimulates economic revitalization, increases pride of place, encourages tourism, and strengthens connection to the community.”

“What we would be doing is giving yet another reason for people to fall in love with where they live. This is a gift to the community.” Thea Wilshire, I Art Globe

In closing, Thea said she would recommend the City develop a process for developing and considering projects like this, that fall outside what the City has done before. She said the process had involved a lot of hoops and had felt awkward because no one from the City or the utilities had contacted her to discuss it, prior to denying the request.

Having received Council’s approval, Thea said the project will probably be ready to open in the spring.

Staff comments

John Angulo, Public Works Director

John Angulo, Globe’s Public Works Director, said the maintenance and safety aspects of the project concern him. Utilities will have to be bluestaked, which he said could potentially be a major undertaking. He also pointed out that City staff are already struggling to meet demands for trash collection and day-to-day cleanup. For example, the picnic bench at the train depot has to be monitored every day. For the alley activation, someone will have to monitor the climbing wall that’s proposed, to be sure the anchors are safe, and he asked who that will be, and what will happen if a safety concern is identified.

Angulo said the City does maintain public spaces – which this project would be – but changing the alley in the manner that’s proposed would invite people into the alley and increase the maintenance that’s required. Angulo said the ground isn’t level and needs to be repaired, many utilities are exposed, and many gas covers aren’t anchored down and could present hazards. Items such as benches and hanging lights would have to be installed safely.

Angulo said in terms of staffing, long-term, this project represents just the tip of the iceberg of additional burdens on Public Works. The library project, the teepee project, the downtown pocket park, skateboard park, drinking stations, and new tree plantings are all falling on the shoulders of Public Works.

“Priority-wise, the alleys have not been our priority, because we’re actually trying to take care of the public areas. This [the proposed alley activation] is a public area, but the public has not [yet] been invited to this area.” John Angulo, Public Works Director

Gary Robinson, Fire Chief

Fire Chief Gary Robinson said from a fire code perspective, Thea has done a good job of addressing many of the concerns, such as using bicycle lockers to store garbage cans. He said an issue already exists in Globe’s alleys due to garbage cans being located behind buildings, because fires that start outside a building can enter the building.

Robinson said the proposed use would create an assembly-like occupancy, under the fire code. This raises some concerns, some of which could be challenging to mitigate. Lighting would have to meet the standards of the fire code. Amenities would have to not contribute to combustibility in any way.

Clearance for utilities under the archway would have to be considered. He said enclosing the utilities is a good idea in terms of putting them out of sight, out of mind, but the project can’t impede access to the utilities or their visibility in any way. Benches would also have to not impede access or visibility for utilities.

“I think Thea hit this on the head when she talked about ‘this is something we haven’t imagined before.’” Gary Robinson, Fire Chief

Robinson said his department isn’t known for doing things halfway, and if Council supports the project, then “let’s address the problems and make sure we go into the project 100%.”

Looking north the Alley proposes to include a rock climbing wall. The project will be done on a three month trial basis beginning this Spring. Courtesy Photo

Sgt. Detective Steve Williams, Office of Chief of Police

Police Department concerns include many of the ones John and Gary already mentioned. With regard to the problem of transients sleeping in the alley, he said it’s true that people do already sleep in the alley, but adding a bench would make the problem much worse, as has happened at the train depot.

“This area, unless it’s extremely well lit and well patrolled, which we do not have the ability to do right now, will create a hotspot for transients.” Sgt. Detective Steve Williams

Williams also asked whether the constant presence of people in alley would cause the dogs at the Humane Society to bark all the time. This would create a burden on the PD to respond to complaints.

Williams said the alley “is absolutely not conducive for children to play in.” He said even if the I Art Globe group agrees to take responsibility for safety and maintenance, the legal and financial liability will still fall on the City if someone is injured.

Paul Jepson, City Manager

Jepson said he has spoken with the City’s attorney and the City would ask I Art Globe to provide liability insurance. He said if someone were injured on a gas meter, for example, the utility company would have primary liability.

“Given its restrictive size, use and the abundance of outright hazards make it irresponsible to sanction public gatherings in a place overrun with utility infrastructure.” City Manager Paul Jepson

Jepson pointed out that if the Council approves a special event permit for a trial period, the project would still need approval from the Historic Preservation Advisory Commission. He suggested if Council reverses their denial of the permit, the City will then check with HPAC, and while that is happening, will also meet with department heads and I Art Globe, and will cover their concerns with stipulations. After that, Council will have a chance to review the stipulations and the HPAC recommendation and have final say on the stipulations.

Jepson advised against the proposal, but made it explicit that the choice is up to Council. He said if Council approves it, the City will make sure the project happens as safely as possible.

Council discussion

Council discussed the level of maintenance the City would have to provide for the alley. Councilman Leetham commented that the alley is already currently not being maintained to the level that the City should be doing. Jepson responded that the City is understaffed and has to prioritize where they put efforts, and the priorities will be public areas that people use and see, rather than alleyways.

Jepson asked Council to consider that if they approve the request, it will place an additional burden on City staff to keep the alley clean. He said other priorities might have to be reduced in order to provide manhours for maintaining the alley.

Thea said she’s asking only that the City maintain the alley to the same extent that they maintain Broad Street, along with adding the two new trash cans. I Art Globe would maintain the amenities that would be added for the alley activation.

Councilmember Fernando Shipley

Shipley suggested that a perfect solution is to have a trial period. If I Art Globe doesn’t maintain the alley during the trial period, then the arrangement won’t be renewed.

“This is going to be something beautiful. It’s going to be an attraction. I think it’s going to bring property values up. It’s going to show that we care.” Councilmember Fernando Shipley

Councilmember Mariano Gonzalez

Gonzalez said he’s seen similar projects in the San Diego area. In Encinitas, they have done projects to encourage foot traffic.

“We are a mining community trying to transition to a tourist community, trying to draw tourism. But we haven’t taken care of this kind of infrastructure yet.” Councilmember Mariano Gonzalez

He said doing a trial will reveal problems, offer lessons, and show whether this project is possible. Gonzalez said we have to decide whether we want to invest in projects like this versus other downtown projects.

Councilmember Jesse Leetham

Leetham pointed out that other communities in the region have come up with ways to activate alleys.

“Globe used to have a sense of community. For a long time Globe lost it. I think this is something that will bring it back.” Councilmember Jesse Leetham

Leetham acknowledged the concerns that has been raised, but suggested they can be solved.

“I applaud our staff for not being reactive but trying to be proactive, but sometimes we can be too proactive and hinder our growth.” Councilmember Jesse Leetham

Councilmember Mike Pastor

Pastor supports doing a trial period. He acknowledged the issues, but said, “I think this is an important issue that would be of benefit.”

He suggested I Art Globe meet with all the department heads and tour the alley to discuss concerns, and that the matter be tabled to another Council meeting, after I Art Globe is able to hold those meetings. He also suggested moving the project to the alley behind the antique mall.

As to that suggestion, Thea said the group considered alleys throughout downtown. She said the alley that goes behind the Huddle is even narrower, has a steep slope, and is mostly made up of parking lots, so it doesn’t have a sense of containment.

Councilmember Freddy Rios

Rios said he supports the thinking and goals of I Art Globe, but has real concerns that Globe’s alleys create challenges to doing a project like this. He appreciates Thea’s group’s efforts to mitigate the problems, but the safety issues arising from the presence of the utilities still concern him.

Rios agrees that I Art Globe should meet with the department heads to discuss concerns and mitigation. He also supports the idea of a trial period, but only after dialogue takes place.

“I want to see it happen, but as a councilman, it’s my responsibility to look out for the best interests of this city, as well.” Councilmember Freddy Rios

Jepson pointed out that the City did meet twice on this proposal and had a one-hour walk with the utilities. He said if the proposal is approved, all the concerns that were mentioned tonight will be discussed and addressed in the stipulations.

Councilmember Mike Stapleton

Stapleton said he appreciates what the department representatives have said tonight but supports a trial period for the sake of economic development and tourism.

He feels it would be a magnet for tourism.“I think this is a fantastic addition to the city.” Councilmember Mike Stapleton

He suggested business owners in the area could take care of the trash collection to relieve City staff of the burden and committed to helping with that.

Mayor Al Gameros

Mayor Gameros said Council has long had the goal of promoting economic development and increasing sales tax revenue to the community, and said, “we aren’t going to [promote tourism] if we continue to do the same things we do every day or are afraid to do things or take chances and move forward with some new ideas.”

“The unique ideas that people bring forward are what attracts certain groups of people to your community. We never know when that one idea or that one thing that we do in our community is going to blow up and is going to make us huge.” Mayor Al Gameros

Mayor Gameros said Council needs to start putting money into Public Works for staffing and equipment, so we can bring new ideas and projects to the city. He said bed tax revenue is already showing that people are coming to the city, but we need new creative ideas to attract them.

“I don’t think we’re doing the right thing for our residents if we’re afraid to embrace new ideas in our community.” Mayor Al Gameros

Public comment

Tracy Quick (via email)

Quick, the owner of the Huddle, had emailed to ask for downtown butt cans for cigarettes and offered to help keep them clean. She also commented, “What’s not to love about the Alley Cat Way?”

Judy Quinn

Quinn supports the alley project and says, “It will work, just give it a chance.”

Ruth Meyer

Meyer, a Globe resident for over 50 years, supports the project and the trial period. She feels it will benefit local residents and local businesses by attracting tourists.

Sherry Rice

Rice is deputy chair of the Historic Preservation Advisory Commission. She said she’d like to defer to Council on approving or denying the application, rather than have the proposal go through HPAC, since they have many of the same concerns and this would simplify the process.

Jepson recommended submitting the proposal through HPAC for the purpose of ensuring consistent treatment of applications and meeting code requirements. But the emphasis would be on design issues such as colors and “blend” issues. A combined packet of stipulations and recommendations would then be brought back before Council.

Rice said HPAC would hold an emergency meeting if necessary to keep the project moving.

Globe Library outdoor space project in planning stages

Mary Testa and Robin Wurst of the Friends of the Library presented an outdoor space project for the Globe Library in response to the COVID situation. They appeared before Council to inform them of the project and are not currently asking for any funding.

Mary said the library needs to be available to the community while the pandemic continues, and they feel the best way to do that is to extend to the outside. By using outdoor space, the library would be function better under COVID restrictions, and the staff could provide services to people of all ages.

In the past they have held outdoor events in a small area, and they propose both expanding that area and installing a seating area. Mary and Robin presented a concept by Rachel Hansen from Tally Ho Engineering that expands the outdoor area to 80 feet by 24 feet within fencing, with planters outside the fence.

The contractor’s estimate comes in just over $37,000, including new concrete and fencing. Shade and cooling, lighting, seating and plantings would come to an additional almost $10,000.

Mary said money to fund this project could come from members of Friends of the Library, community support through fund raisers, and grants. She requested assistance with applying for grants.

Council launches Citizens Academy Program

Council discussed and approved holding a Citizens Academy program starting October 13, 2021.

Jepson explained that the program consists of six hands-on classes, two hours each, that will help citizens understand the roles, duties, challenges, and diversity of City government. The classes will cover: the council-manager form of government, Police, Fire, Finance, Economic Development, and Public Works.

The classes will be limited to a maximum of approximately 20 students, and a councilmember will be in attendance at each meeting. The classes will be held in the evening at various locations, and students may be required to sign a waiver.

Registration opens Wednesday, September 15, and people can register or get more information by contacting Sherry Salazar at (928) 200-8535. Students have to be over 18, live in the City, and be willing to commit to attending six evening classes plus two government meetings.

Jepson said the City plans to hold the program twice a year.

RV restrictions lifted for flood victims

Council discussed and approved a temporary stay to City code to allow people who’ve been displaced due to the flooding to live in an RV temporarily while they do repairs on their homes.

According to City code, people are not allowed to live out of RVs on residential property. This resolution suspends that restriction for flood victims for six months. People will have to get a permit.

Council added a stipulation that flood victims can live in an RV either on their own property or on another person’s property within City limits while they do repairs. Jepson pointed out that this may have impact on neighbors, such as increased activity and noise.

Mayor Gameros he said he doesn’t think there are many cases within City limits of people having that extent of damage to their home. The resolution had been requested by a person from Russel Gulch who had damage to their home and wants to live temporarily in an RV within City limits.

Council creates subcommittees to accommodate special discussions

Council discussed and created four new subcomittees for public safety, infrastructure, financial sustainability, and quality of life.

Jepson said this change arose out of the Strategic Action Plan as to how best to track activities. He said Council receives a lot of requests for special meetings, such as for topics like homelessness or disaster planning. With these subcommittees, the entire Council wouldn’t have to be involved in these special discussions, and Council meetings could be shorter.

The subcommittees are being modeled on the committee that recently worked on the healthcare benefits plan.

Since practically any issue that might arise would fall under one of the four subcommittees, instead of creating a new committee for each issue, new issues would be assigned to the agenda of the appropriate subcommittee.

Since the subcommittees will have only three members each, they will not be subject to the open meeting laws. Each subcommittee would meet six times per year, every two months, on a rotation.

The initial membership will be as follows:

Public Safety: Mayor Gameros, Vice Mayor Stapleton, and Councilman Gonzalez

Infrastructure: Councilmen Pastor, Rios, and Shipley

Financial Sustainability: Mayor Gameros and councilmen Rios and Leetham

Quality of Life (including economic development): Councilmen Leetham, Shipley, and Stapleton

Motions approved

Council approved the following motions:

  • Accounts payable in the amount of $1,086,494.03. City Manager Paul Jepson explained that the amount is so high because the City is making police and fire PSPRS payments in the amount of $222,339 and $213,620, respectively. This represents six months’ worth of payments, according to Finance Director Jeannie Sgroi. The amount also includes $151,000 for Blue Cross Blue Shield for September.
  • Appointment of Doug Brannan to the Historic Preservation Advisory Commission.
  • A bed tax distribution for FY 2020-2021, second, third, and fourth quarters, in the amount of $29,695.32 to the Globe Downtown Association. Council pointed out that bed tax funds should be applied for on a quarterly basis.
  • Amendment of a contract for on-call civil engineering support services with Richard Powers Consulting PLLC to extend the existing contract for an additional year at a cost of up to $58,000.
  • Amendment of a contract for on-call civil engineering support services with Tally Ho Engineering and Consulting to extend the existing contract for an additional year at a cost of up to $58,000.

Members of the Globe City Council: Mayor Al Gameros, Vice Mayor Mike Stapleton, and Council members Freddy Rios, Mike Pastor, Jesse Leetham, Fernando Shipley, and Mariano Gonzalez. All members were in attendance.

 

Full minutes can be found by going to the City Hall website  and clicking on Agendas/Minutes in the bottom left-hand corner.

The Globe City Council meets every second and fourth Tuesday of the month at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall. The meetings are currently open to the public at 50% capacity. Members of the public are requested to wear a mask except when seated. Seating is limited to allow for social distancing.

Members of the public can also participate in City of Globe public meetings by viewing the meeting live on YouTube. To view the Council meeting live stream, go to the City of Globe’s YouTube channel (search for City of Globe Arizona). Or click on the “Live Stream on YouTube” link at the top of www.globeaz.gov.

To speak to agenda items before or during the meeting, you can call or text (928) 200-0154 or send an email to council@globeaz.gov. If you desire to speak to the Council during an agenda item, please contact the Council in advance and include your phone number on your request.

 

2 comments

  1. In the eighteen years that i lived in Globe there has never been to my knowledge a desire to improve the desirability to visit/live in Globe until about three years ago. People began to become involved through both personal projects and public events. Upon reading this article I see that an administrative ‘road block’ has been attempted to ‘poo-poo’ the use of allies for other than trash storage. Most of the alleys were built to model ‘A’ standards thus most of the fire apparatus would not be able to transit them [only laying lines could be done], trash haulers have previously complained of the width of the alleys, the utility lines are just ‘nailed’ to the walls without concern for access or functionality and homeless/transients sometimes use the alley as a temporary refuge. As i read the article there was more negativity to the idea in the name of ‘due diligence’ and not enough ‘how can it be accomplished.’

    • I agree with you. It’s easier to get a dog park approved than anything special for the kids.
      Thank you Thea! One step at a time that’s what we need to be taking. And this is a big step in the right direction.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.