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New plan for development near Hickory Hill Park gains local support
‘There’s really nothing of concern that we can see at this stage,’ Friends of Hickory Hill vice chairman Jason Napoli says
IOWA CITY — The fourth version of a proposed development near Hickory Hill Park is garnering more support than previous proposals.
The nonprofit Friends of Hickory Hill supports the revised plan, vice chairman Jason Napoli told The Gazette.
“We were never anti-development for the residential section,” Napoli said. “We wanted the residential section of the development to be done responsibly and in line with Northeast District Plan.”
Napoli added that the group wasn’t “fighting development — we were fighting how it was developed.”
The nonprofit works with the city to maintain the trail system in the park, much of it left in primitive condition, and to control and remove invasive species and take care of native plantings.
Its mission is to “permanently protect and preserve the park’s unique qualities as urban park land,” according to the group’s website.
A major concern among residents and the Friends of Hickory Hill was that previous iterations of the development did not align with the Northeast District Plan, Napoli said.
More than 125 concerned residents attended the Planning and Zoning Commission when commissioners took up the third proposal this year, he said.
The updated proposal for rezoning the 48-acre plot northeast of the park is scaled back from previous plans and devotes nearly three times more land to the park. The most recent proposal does not include single-family housing as previous versions did.
The new proposal includes a 120-bed senior living facility on 9.29 acres of land at the southeast corner of the plot. The remaining 38.54 acres of land would be dedicated to the city for public open space and expansion of Hickory Hill Park.
Napoli said the group was “thrilled” upon hearing the amount of land that will be dedicated for expansion of the park.
“There’s really nothing of concern that we can see at this stage,” Napoli said of the proposal.
The developers involved with the project — Axiom Consultants and Nelson Development — held a meeting for residents last week to discuss the proposal and answer questions.
Napoli, who lives a block from the park, said he spoke at the meeting.
“We complimented and appreciate Nelson Development for being not only community minded but also environmentally and ecologically minded,” Napoli said.
He said the group does want to see more wording about the land and if it will be deeded as parkland and not simply a conservation easement.
“The developer seems committed and very authentic and genuine in making sure that it is dedicated as parkland, and it will never be built on,” Napoli said.
Napoli said the Hickory Hills group is committed to working with the city to incorporate the land into the park, whether that’s maintaining the trail system, transitioning it to native prairie or another idea.
The revised development proposal could come before the Planning and Zoning Commission as soon as Oct. 21, though that date could change, according to Anne Russett, a senior planner with the city.
The city will send a notification when the commission will consider the plan and on how to provide input.
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