Government

Linn County parcel could include a mix of residential, conservation and agricultural uses

Prairie grasses are shown adjacent to a wetland at Squaw Creek Park in Marion on Friday, Sept. 9, 2016. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
Prairie grasses are shown adjacent to a wetland at Squaw Creek Park in Marion on Friday, Sept. 9, 2016. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — A plan for about 180 acres of land recently purchased by the county aims to include a mix of conservation, residential and agricultural uses.

What’s more, those three elements will work in tandem to create a community just east of Cedar Rapids that would bring the land’s economic value up to about $100 million when complete.

“We’ve sort of held this concept of how do we incorporate a public good into this development? Because it’s county-owned, this gives us a unique opportunity, not just to respond to the market, but try to address a public good — from a social equity, from an economic equity standpoint,” said Les Beck, Linn County director of planning and development.

That discussion, driven by a county working group, has led to a preliminary concept for the property — located south of the Gardner Golf Course.

Linn County Planning and Development will unveil the preliminary proposal during an open house from 5:30-7 p.m. April 12 at A Touch of Class Banquet & Convention Center, 5977 Mount Vernon Road SE, Cedar Rapids.

The open house will include concept display boards, a presentation and a chance for the public to review the plan and provide feedback.

Dennis Reynolds, owner of Reynolds Urban Design, the consultant working with Linn County on the concept plan, said the parcel is proposed to be split — 50 percent into conservation, 25 percent agriculture and 25 percent development, largely residential.

James Spiller, director of design with Blackbird Investments out of Des Moines, said housing will run the full gamut from single-family homes to condos to multifamily units.

“The intent is the full spectrum of product offerings,” he said. “The intent is that you’ve got quite a bit of availability and access for all residents and visitors to experience the beauty of the county.”

Eventually, parcels of land would be sold off to developers, who would build out projects to specifications detailed in previously agreed upon contracts, Beck said.

Those residential units, and any proposed retail developments, would be closely associated with a potential working farm element, nearby conservation lands and trailheads.

Beck said future development phases would better flesh out how the working farm portion of the project will work.

“At this point we don’t know how that would work. We don’t know who would own it and we don’t know how it would be managed, but we have some options,” Beck said. “I think there are certainly going to be ways to make it work.”

The Linn County Board of Supervisors in 2016 purchased the 179 acres of land, along with 306 acres north of the golf course — from the Sutherland Dows Family Trust — for $7.2 million.

The northern tract of land is planned largely for conservation efforts, with hopes of adding to the nearly 700-acre Squaw Creek Park, creating water protection areas along the Squaw Creek corridor and allowing for the connection of the Sac & Fox and Grant Wood Trail systems.

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Development on the southern portion of property is anticipated to help pay off the entire purchase, officials have said.

l Comments: (319) 398-8309; mitchell.schmidt@thegazette.com

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