The Dyersville City Council has taken its first step toward ratifying a more modernized set of zoning codes after it approved the first formal reading of the roughly 220-page document.

The zoning code, which was adopted in 1963 and has been subjected to several modifications since, has needed an update to bring it more in line with modern practices, city officials said.

City Administrator Mick Michel said the updated code section will be more reflective of current standards and terminology compared to its mid-century counterpart. The new code section will also be more in line with the recently passed Comprehensive Plan, and will allow for growth within the city, he added.

While this signals a considerable change for future development and land use policy, it will not have any impact on existing buildings.

Charlie Cowell, a representative with RDG who helped draft the new code, said these changes do not regulate the interior of buildings or how buildings are constructed, will not force anyone to change what they are doing with their property, and will not force anyone to tear down an existing building or force anyone to move.

The “old” set of regulations will still apply to pending applications; predated approvals and existing variances will be grandfathered in.

Councilman Mike English requested that the council hold another hearing on the matter in case any members of the public still wish to comment. English also added that if they find something along the way that isn’t working, it will be easy for the council to make a change, a sentiment Cowell agreed with.

“I’ll guarantee in the first year you’re going to want to amend something and, understand, that’s perfectly normal,” Cowell said, adding that it can take time to figure out what works on the ground versus on paper.

The council will likely approve the new code section at its Nov. 18 meeting, but even if that should happen, these changes won’t take place until next year.

Michel said in order to train the various boards and commissions on the changes, change applications and modified internal procedures, the new regulations won’t be enacted until March 1, 2020.

“They’ve put a lot of work into this,” Mayor Jim Heavens said. “I think it’s very user-friendly and much-needed and overdue improvement.”

The council also approved a long-discussed contract for a new sidewalk that will run along the eastern side of Hwy 136 and over the railroad tracks toward the Heritage Trail.

Julie Neebel, a project planner with IIW, told the council they received six good bids, with the lowest coming in 21% below the engineer’s estimate.

The council awarded the contract to Eastern Iowa Excavating & Concrete, LLC, of Cascade, to the tune of $108,174, well below the $137,000 engineer’s estimate.

The project’s largest obstacle in the past has been getting the necessary permissions from the railroad to facilitate a pedestrian crossing. Now that it has been accomplished, the council still needs to determine exactly where the sidewalk will end, something that likely won’t be decided until construction begins.

In the original set of plans, the sidewalk stopped in the middle of the grass just south of the Heritage Printing parking lot. Given that the council did not want the sidewalk ending in a private driveway and the city’s right-of-way in that area is limited, the council is also considering having the sidewalk run east along Beltline Road until it lines up with the pavilion. Neebel and city staff said they will see what options exist before construction begins in spring 2020.