Government

Cargill rail yard stalls as court case rolls on

Construction timeline in limbo for project that roiled Rompot neighborhood

Rob Hogg, a Democratic state senator who has lived in Rompot for two decades, leads people Nov. 25 on a nature tour focu
Rob Hogg, a Democratic state senator who has lived in Rompot for two decades, leads people Nov. 25 on a nature tour focusing on an area in the Cedar Rapids neighborhood where Cargill is slated to build a rail yard. (B.A. Morelli/The Gazette)

Background

CEDAR RAPIDS — After a bitter battle between residents and one of the city’s major employers — Cargill — with the city of Cedar Rapids in the middle, in December, the Cedar Rapids City Council approved a $6.5 million, 12-track, 200-car rail yard located between the Rompot neighborhood and Prairie Park Fishery.

Cargill wanted to buy and put the rail yard on a 28-acre city-owned site on Stewart Road SE. Construction required rezoning the land to industrial use and a change to the city’s future land use map — putting city officials in the spotlight.

The rail yard was needed for more supply chain stability and to protect jobs at the corn-milling plant, at 1710 16th St. SE and not far from the rail yard site, company officials said. Cargill officials planned to submit final paperwork within a month of the vote, begin construction in early spring and have the rail yard operating by the end of the year.

What has happened since?

A lot and nothing.

Before construction was to begin, the city required Cargill to provide a third-party appraisal of the land. The city had provided an initial value of $83,200, which Cargill agreed to match. However, the value of the land has been in question as nearby properties ranged from $20,000 to $30,000 an acre, which was far greater than the $3,000 per acre value the city used.

City officials say the appraisal has not been submitted, nor has Cargill sought the required permits before construction can begin.

This delay began well before disruptions from the coronavirus pandemic and after lawsuits were filed to block the rail yard.

Rompot resident and state Sen. Rob Hogg, who is a lawyer, filed two lawsuits against the City Council — one each challenging the rezoning vote and the vote to change the future land use map. Numerous neighbors and others in opposition to the rail yard have joined the lawsuit, which Hogg supported.

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Meanwhile, Cargill intervened on behalf of the city. At this point, sides still are arguing whether to expand the record to include additional evidence. Dates for a hearing have not been set.

So, the status of the contentious rail yard and a timeline for construction remains in limbo.

“We don’t have anything new to share at this point regarding work and timelines specific to the development of the rail yard,” Kelly Sheehan, a spokeswoman for Cargill, said in late April.

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