Cedar Rapids neighborhood residents OK with church, not town houses

Planning Commission rejects rezoning request on city's northeast side

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The Cedar Rapids City Planning Commission on Thursday shot down a proposed 50-unit complex of rentable town house-style row houses on 7.8 acres of farmland that neighbors thought was destined for a church.

The Genesis Equities proposal, called The Commons on Blairsferry at 4480 Blairs Ferry Rd. NE, was met with resistance from neighbors. They mustered more than 100 signatures on a petition saying the project wasn’t a fit for the neighborhood.

Commission member Lisa Peloquin agreed, as did others on the board, which voted against rezoning the land from agriculture to multifamily residential.

“Unless you put an enormous greenwall, it seems like too extreme of a transition,” Peloquin said. “I am not liking how this is laid out.”

The $8.5 million to $9 million development — with eight buildings of three-story row houses and three adjacent single family homes — is similar to a Genesis project on Boyson Road NE, which Peloquin praised. However, The Commons on Blairs Ferry Road would be set in the middle of upper-scale, single-family homes.

Meanwhile, the farmland had changed hands between churches and is currently owned by Cavalry Chapel Iowa.

Ryan Koester, whose home would back up to the development, said neighbors were told the land would eventually be used for a church, and they did not have a problem with that use. He said they aren’t opposed to developing the land but that The Commons is too dense, not owner-occupied and would increase traffic.

“We are not against development, but three-story rentals are out of scale and not compatible with the immediate neighborhoods,” Koester said.

Hannah Kustes, an owner of Genesis, said her firm will reexamine the plan to see if it can made more palatable. But at this point, she said, it’s not clear if a different project would be financially feasible there. The units would have been leased for $1,450 to $2,500 per month, she said.

“If it does not work there, we’ll look for another site, maybe in Cedar Rapids, or maybe it’s not,” Kustes said.

Diamond V expansion

Also at the meeting, the commission backed a major expansion of Diamond V Mills at 2575 60th Ave. SW, essentially doubling the size of the operation south of Highway 30 and west of Interstate 380.

A preliminary site development plan was given a green light, although it still needs approval from the City Council, likely in the coming weeks.

The project will add a 98,136-square-foot building for factory and warehouse use just south of an existing 134,380-square-foot building on the 31-acre site. The new building would support 16 employees.

Diamond V is a Cedar Rapids-based company that makes products to improve nutrition health and performance in food animals and companion animals, according to its website.

Other aspects of the project include two detention basins to control stormwater and 22 parking spaces. Due to the building’s height — 92 feet — and proximity to The Eastern Iowa Airport, the project also will need approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.

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