Government

Housing development proposed near Iowa City's Hickory Hill Park

Detail from rezoning exhibit of Hickory Trail in Iowa City
Detail from rezoning exhibit of Hickory Trail in Iowa City

IOWA CITY — While a proposed housing development would add 10 acres to Iowa City’s Hickory Hill Park, residents are concerned about development encroaching on the beloved recreational area.

“I am very concerned with the lack of buffer between this development and the park, and I feel that this development would bring irreparable harm to these sense of wildness one can feel while hiking Hickory Hill’s more remote trails” reads a Feb. 9 email from Kristen Morrow to City of Iowa City staff.

At their Thursday meeting, Iowa City’s Planning and Zoning Commission will consider a request from Axiom Consultants to rezone 48.75 acres of land from Interim Development Single-Family to Low Density Single-Family. The land is located south of Scott Boulevard, west of First Avenue and is adjacent to the 185-acre Hickory Hill Park.

Michael Welch with Axiom Consultants said the development calls for 43 single family homes, 10 single family condos and a 120-unit memory care and assisted living facility. The development would require the extension of Hickory Trail west from First Avenue and north to Scott Boulevard.

The development would add 10 acres to Hickory Hill Park and create two access points to the park.

“I think from the park standpoint, we’re definitely making some enhancements to it,” Welch said. “We really do try to find that balance between the desire to develop a piece of land and creating something that is pleasing.”

City staff have received approximately two dozen emails voicing opposition to the project.

Laura Goddard, treasurer for the nonprofit Friends of Hickory Hill Park, said the organization is not entirely opposed to development near Hickory Hill, recognizing that the land in question is not part of the park.

“What we want to advocate for is development that will continue to allow people to access and interact with the park as freely as possible,” Goddard said.

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Goddard said the proposed development is not entirely in line with the city’s Comprehensive Plan and Northeast District Plan. For instance, those plans call for cul-de-sacs and streets with housing on only one side, two provisions not present in Axiom’s proposal.

Goddard said representatives have had civil conversations with the developers and said their feedback has been heard. They remain opposed to the development as it’s currently planned, however.

It’s true that the development does not comply entirely with the city’s comprehensive plan, said Anne Russett, senior planner with the city. But staff is recommending approval of the rezoning with some conditions such as creating a woodland management plan and trail connections and incorporating traffic calming devices.

“What we’re saying is we recognize the proposed development doesn’t match perfectly ... but it does meet some of the other goals of the plan,” Russett said.

Those goals include allowing a variety of housing types, providing additional acreage to the park, proposing an interconnected street system and limiting impacts to sensitive areas.

If approved, the recommendation from planning and zoning could go to the city council next month.

Comments: (319) 339-3155; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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