Government

Neighbors file to join lawsuit contending Cedar Rapids illegally allowed Cargill to build rail yard in Rompot

Sen. Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids, a longtime resident of the Rompot neighborhood, leads a walk along Otis Avenue SE near Pr
Sen. Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids, a longtime resident of the Rompot neighborhood, leads a walk along Otis Avenue SE near Prairie Park Fishery in Cedar Rapids in November. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — A lawsuit challenging municipal decisions to allow one of the city’s largest companies to build a rail yard in a blue-collar neighborhood and nature corridor could expand as residents opposed to Cargill’s $6.5 million project filed paperwork on Tuesday to intervene in the cases.

A newly formed corporation called Protect the Prairie Park Corridor, Inc., as well as six of a growing roster of members, filed motions to intervene in two separate petitions for certiorari, or review, filed by Rob and Kate Hogg in December.

The Hoggs challenged the legality of City Council votes late last year to change the city’s future land-use map and rezone 17 acres of city-owned land in the Rompot neighborhood to allow the 12-track, 200-car rail yard.

“I had planned to leave my property to my grandchildren,” Louwanna Morris, of 23rd Avenue SE, said in an affidavit of support. “But this rail yard will transform this neighborhood into a ghost town, just as the neighborhood that formerly was located near Cargill’s main plant has turned that area into a ghost town.

“Nobody wants to live in the middle of an industrial rail yard. I never dreamed the city would betray this community and nature corridor so deeply and insensitively.”

The Gazette attempted to reach the city for comment, but messages were not returned by deadline.

In addition to Morris, intervenors included Jeremiah Kenny, Ronald Lippe, Michael Noke, John Schriner, and Kerry Sanders, who had served as a spokesperson for the opposition.

Cargill began filing paperwork with the city for the rail yard in late 2017, but the project stopped and started amid heavy resistance before City Council ultimately sided with one of the area’s largest economic engines and employers.

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“Intervenors believe that the combined attempts to skirt political and public discourse to rezone and repurpose community land, for the benefit of said corporate entity, to the detriment of said law-abiding residents and homeowners, is not only bad public policy but, more importantly, unlawful,” the motion states.

Among the key points, those opposed contend the city allowing the rail yard contradicts a previous designation of the land as a pollinator zone, it could harm property values and worsen the impact of flooding.

The city had been working to finalize the sale of the land to Cargill, as a final step before construction began, but it does not appear that has happened yet. The purchase price was projected at around $83,000, but a third party appraisal also was required.

Hogg, who is a state senator and lives nearby the site, said he had not yet read the filing so his view could change. But, he said, “If people feel adversely affected by the city’s decision and want to get involved, I don’t see how that could be a bad thing.”

Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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