116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — After twice voting to support a controversial housing development proposed near Hickory Hill Park, the Iowa City Council reversed course Tuesday night and rejected a rezoning that would have allowed homes and a senior living center and added land to the park.
A reversal on the third consideration of the Hickory Trail Estates development came after council members heard and read an onslaught of opposition to the project, although it had been scaled back from its initial proposal.
The council approved the rezoning on its previous two readings by votes of 6-1 and then 4-3. This time, the motion to rezone the 48-arce plot to low-density single-family housing had only two supporters left on the council.
Mayor Bruce Teague and council member Janice Weiner changed their positions, this time voting against the project — citing a proposed through-street, as opposed the cul-de-sacs called for in the city’s Northeast district plan, as the reason for voting no.
Some residents were concerned a single-loaded street — meaning houses built on one side only — connecting Scott Boulevard and First Avenue would nonetheless increase traffic to the area and disrupt the park, and was not in alignment with the kind of cul-de-sac development outlined in the Northeast district plan.
The proposed development faced months of push back, with dozens of residents writing to the City Council expressing opposition and attending previous meetings of the Planning and Zoning Committee and City Council.
Council members heard an hour of public comment from residents Tuesday evening, with all who spoke aside from the developer in opposition. The project was proposed by developer Joseph Clark, Nelson Development and Axiom Consultants. Residents have cited concerns that the development’s proximity to the park would disrupt the ecosystem and aesthetics of the park.
Hickory Trail Estates was to include 41 lots of single-family housing and a senior living facility, and add 14 acres to the nearby Hickory Hill Park.
“When I look at this park, and the plan, and the district overlay — I honestly believe it is not the time for the council to approve this project,” Teague said.
Weiner said she voted no because she would like to see the development have cul-de-sacs rather than a through street.
The development was first presented to the Planning and Zoning commission in February and was shot down. The commission later endorsed a third, scaled-back version of the plan, voted on by the council.
The final proposal, advanced by the Planning and Zoning Commission, removed plans for a 10-unit condo development, devoted 14 acres to the park, added a buffer zone and planned for the majority of the development to be only along a single-loaded street.
Council members Laura Bergus and Susan Mims were the sole votes in favor of the development Tuesday night. Bergus said she did not think the development would be significantly disruptive to the park, after walking the proposed land for the project.
“Sometimes we have to consider the interests of a property owner and balance the law that is in front of us, what we have today, against what many or even the vast majority of people may think is best, or may be what they want,” Bergus said.
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