116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Though some residents opposed plans to build 89 single-family houses east of the Rompot neighborhood and Cargill’s contentious new rail yard site, the Cedar Rapids City Council unanimously backed the developer’s proposal for construction of new homes.
With three of nine council members absent, the council on Tuesday rejected two appeals of the City Planning Commission’s July 7 vote to OK a preliminary plat for the Kestrel Heights subdivision, which will be built in four phases over the next seven to 10 years.
The vote allows the developer, Greyhurst Enterprises, to proceed with plans to build new homes that will fill 65 acres of undeveloped land north of Otis Road SE and east of Cole Street SE.
Some residents opposed the plan because they believe it will disturb the existing green space, increase traffic, negatively affect stormwater management and violate the city’s comprehensive plan that guides Cedar Rapids’ growth.
Had there been no appeals under the city’s subdivision ordinance, the preliminary plat would not have come to the council for consideration, Development Services Manager Ken DeKeyser said.
The final plat likely would have been placed on the consent agenda, though any land use or rezoning changes would have come to the elected officials.
This land is zoned Suburban Residential Large Lot District, so rezoning was not needed.
The City Planning Commission advanced the project because it met the city’s comprehensive plan. It also complies with Cedar Rapids’ subdivision ordinance because the planned infrastructure for water and sewer meets the city’s engineering design standards, DeKeyser said.
‘Nice place to live’
“Kestrel Heights will be a nice area to live in,” said Vicki Norris, co-owner of Greyhurst Enterprises. “We just feel like it’s going to really be a good thing for the neighborhood.”
Brian Norris, president of Greyhurst Enterprises, said he has communicated with neighbors and city staff to improve the development through 23 versions of the plan.
“We believe that everything has been done that the city has asked, that we have followed up on all the tasks since approval, and we are ready to move forward on the next stage of development,” he said.
Margaret Antonelli, who moved into a home on Otis Road SE from Marion shortly before the 2020 derecho, said the privacy of the southeast side was enticing. She feared having more nearby properties would disrupt that and asked for the council’s due diligence in considering the preliminary plat.
“This was the perfect house for us with the views, with the country living that we all love — everything that we wanted,” Antonelli said.
Antonelli also was concerned about the attempt to sell homes near Cargill’s rail yard on Stewart Road SE, which is slated to be operational by September though the project remains in litigation. She said she wanted transparent conversations with the city and developer, and for the city to be honest about the neighborhoods this will affect.
“Do we really want kids playing down by the rail yard and railroad?” Antonelli asked.
Heidi Horner, who appealed the planning commission’s decision on the subdivision, said the character of the neighborhood is nature and open space. Her main argument was that the development violated the city’s comprehensive plan and said this area was not part of the growth plan and lacks key infrastructure to support residential development.
“This specific project has snowballed from the original concept of a handful of nice large lots in a park into an absolute mess of tiny little lots crammed together so that the developer can afford the required infrastructure,” Horner said.
DeKeyser said amenities and services such as trails or transit access are based on existing and planned needs, but a development usually precedes those things, so a lack of services in the existing area would not be grounds to disqualify the development.
Council member Ashley Vanorny said the city’s annual Maxwell housing study, which shows the demand for various types of housing in Cedar Rapids, demonstrates the need for single-family houses like the ones planned for Kestrel Heights.
A May draft copy of the study, presented recently to the council’s Development Committee, shows demand for 1,596 single-family homes through 2030.
Vanorny said residents need to be prepared for their neighborhoods to change as surrounding areas grow.
“When we have these things available, we have to realize that just because it’s what it is now doesn’t mean that we can promise you that, or unless you own that land that you get to keep it that way,” Vanorny said.
Mayor Tiffany O’Donnell agreed the city needs the addition to its housing stock.
“We’d like to have housing, though not at the peril of other neighbors, so everything we can do to mitigate disruption is appreciated,” she told DeKeyser.
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