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155-acre annexation could bring new church, housing, commercial to Cedar Rapids

Unhappy neighbors could face increased taxes and other fees

33rd Avenue SW looks west where the road dead ends at the Highway 30 off ramp to Williams Boulevard SW in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Monday, April 30, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
33rd Avenue SW looks west where the road dead ends at the Highway 30 off ramp to Williams Boulevard SW in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Monday, April 30, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Property owners in an unincorporated island surrounded by incorporated Cedar Rapids are split over a plan that would annex 155 acres into the city for development of a church, dozens of condos and commercial area.

Five property owners with large swathes of undeveloped farm land in the southwest part of the city — which would be used for redevelopment — favor the annexation. Twelve homeowners, however, are opposed, fearing property tax increases and other fees.

Because the five in favor control 87 percent of the land, the annexation can move forward under an 80-20 rule, or a non-consenting voluntary annexation.

“They basically shot us down right away because we had less than 20 percent of the land,” said Jo Dee Moody, 68, who lives on 33rd Avenue SW. “We didn’t really have any say.”

Iowa’s City Development Board will consider final approval of the annexation when it meets at 1 p.m., Wednesday, in the second floor main conference room at 200 E. Grand Ave. in Des Moines.

The board was briefed on the plan last month and voiced no objection.

The Cedar Rapids City Council voted in favor of the annexation on March 13, and no one spoke for or against it at a public hearing the same day.

The land is situated mostly to the east of the Highway 30 and Williams Boulevard SW intersection, near where 33rd Avenue SW dead ends. The annexation would also include part of Highway 30 and Williams Boulevard and some land and a house on the north side of Williams.

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“The reason for bringing in non-consenting properties is to create more uniform corporate limit boundaries and to prevent the creation of county islands,” Vern Zakostelecky, Cedar Rapids zoning administrator, explained during the March 13 City Council meeting.

Property owners Terra Enterprises LLC., Joseph W. Aossey, New Disciples of Cedar Rapids, Bellon-Africa Family Farms LC and JPM Enterprises Inc. control most of the land and support the annexation.

Zakostelecky said the city already has been contacted about rezoning and preliminary site plans for what would be commercial space.

No details about that space have been released, and Zakostelecky noted those plans would have to come before City Council for approval before proceeding.

Renderings show more details of other parts of the future development, although those plans could change.

A parcel of land close to Williams Boulevard would be used by New Disciples, which hopes to build a campus with a new church, recreation area and urban agriculture.

A housing development with around 100 buildings containing two-, three- and four-unit market-rate, owner-occupied condos is pictured along Highway 30 to the north.

Homeowners such as Moody and Jeremy Snakenberg, 39 — who calls this part of Linn County an “oasis” — say they expect the annexation to go through and they worry about the cost.

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“I am assuming since we’d be part of the city, our taxes would be higher and we would have to potentially hook up to city water and sewer,” Snakenberg said. “A lot of that cost is going to be on us — several thousand dollars, I imagine.”

Zakostelecky provided some clarification.

“The property owners would not have to pay for anything until they hook up to city sanitary sewer and/or water,” Zakostelecky said in an email. “At the time connections are requested, the assessment(s) would be due.”

The assessment would equal their share of 60 percent of project costs, and they would need to hire a contractor to make the connection to the city main and pay a tapping fee, Zakostelecky said.

Road improvement assessments also would equal their share of 60 percent of the project cost, but the road only be upgraded if needed or if property owners requested it, he said.

The assessment can’t exceed 25 percent of the assessed property value, per state code.

Residential properties incorporated into the city typically pay an additional one-third in taxes above what they pay to the county, Zakostelecky said.

l Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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