116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
A hearing is slated to take place next month on a state senator’s lawsuit against the Cedar Rapids City Council over the contentious rail yard between the Rompot neighborhood and Prairie Park Fishery.
An Iowa Court of Appeals panel will hear oral arguments at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 9 in state Sen. Rob Hogg’s case against the council to challenge the $6.5 million, 12-track, 200-car rail yard being built on 28 acres at Stewart Road SE.
Hogg, a resident of the neighborhood, in 2019 filed two lawsuits against the city he represents — challenging the council’s vote to rezone the land to industrial use and the vote to change the future land use map. Numerous neighbors and others in opposition to the rail yard have joined the lawsuits.
Cargill officials have said the rail yard is necessary to provide supply chain stability and protect jobs at the company’s corn-milling plant, at 1710 16th St. SE, not far from the construction site. Some residents who oppose the project fear it would create noise and air pollution, erode property values and pose safety risks.
District Court and Supreme Court judges have denied a motion to stay the project pending the appeal to the higher court.
In ruling against the cases in July 2020, 6th District Court Judge Mary Chicchelly wrote that the plaintiffs and Protect the Prairie Park Corridor, a group in opposition to the project, “have not overcome the strong presumption of legality” in reviewing the city’s decisions on amending the future land use map and rezoning. The city’s actions “were not unreasonable, arbitrary, or capricious,” Chicchelly wrote in both rulings.
She also wrote that Cedar Rapids had investigated the implications for its comprehensive plan, including flood protection, and “considered the competing interests” before making a decision. Ultimately, Chicchelly ruled that the project “clearly is a large one in which Cargill likely would incur significant damages if a delay is imposed.”
Officials expect the rail yard to be operational by this fall. Earthwork on the site is underway.
Some residents, including Hogg, in recent weeks have raised concerns about dust, noise and mud on the streets.
According to a July memo to the council from City Manager Jeff Pomeranz, Cargill is using a street sweeper to clean the streets and water spreaders on-site to control dust. To check the noise complaints, the Police Department has measured sound levels and found them in compliance with the city’s noise ordinance.
“Staff are responding to these complaints and documenting site visits with photos and videos,” the memo states. “The site appears to be operating with dust and other controls comparably to other public and private construction sites in the city, and we have not found any violations that would warrant a work stoppage. Cargill is also offering to conduct on-site tours for city officials to demonstrate how they are managing the project.”
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