News

Judge sides with Cedar Rapids in lawsuit challenging Cargill's rail yard plans

Project in limbo pending ruling on separate rezoning case

A Union Pacific rail line is seen adjacent to land slated for development along Otis Avenue SE near Prairie Park Fishery
A Union Pacific rail line is seen adjacent to land slated for development along Otis Avenue SE near Prairie Park Fishery in Cedar Rapids on Nov. 27, 2019. Neighborhood residents have been voicing their opinions about a proposed plan by Cargill to build a rail yard near the lake and adjacent to their properties. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
/

CEDAR RAPIDS — Contentious plans for Cargill, a major Cedar Rapids employer, to build a $6.5 million rail yard in the Rompot neighborhood remain in limbo. A judge ruled in one lawsuit filed against the city that the City Council’s vote to change the future land use map was “supported by evidence.”

A related case remains in litigation.

Sixth District Court Judge Mary Chicchelly ruled Friday in favor of the city and Cargill, but in her ruling said the court “will not substitute its judgment as to the wisdom or propriety of Defendant’s action when the reasonableness of the (future land use map) is fairly debatable,” as shown by discussion surrounding the plaintiffs’ contention.

State Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, who along with his wife, Kathryn, filed two lawsuits in December against the city to challenge the council’s votes on the future land use map and rezoning, contended the decisions conflicted with the city flood protection plan, greenway plans, designation of the land as a “Prairie Pollinator Zone” and part of the “Sac and Fox Natureway,” and violate residents’ property rights.

Hogg said he plans to appeal within the state’s 30-day deadline.

“I think the decision is wrong, both factually and legally,” Hogg said.

A judge has not yet ruled in a separate lawsuit filed in December on rezoning, which Dan Pulis, Cedar Rapids corn-processing facility manager, said in a statement Monday that Cargill officials are waiting on to move forward.

“We are pleased that the Iowa District Court for Linn County has ruled in favor of the City of Cedar Rapids and its decision to amend the Future Land Use map of the Stewart parcel for development of the Cargill rail yard,” Pulis said.

Ken DeKeyser, city development services manager, said that “to move the project forward Cargill must finalize steps in the development agreement, including appraisal and purchase of the property, providing construction plans and completing public outreach.”

The council’s approval in December on rezoning and amending the future land use map gave Cargill the green light to build a 12-track, 200-car rail yard despite some Cedar Rapids residents’ opposition. The project will be on 28 acres of city-owned land south of Stewart Road SE between the blue-collar Rompot neighborhood and Prairie Park Fishery.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Construction required rezoning the land to industrial use and a change to the city’s future land use map.

Cargill officials said 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. 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.

Plaintiffs argue that the Stewart Road property is within a 200-year flood plain and should not be sold, and also contend that the city’s decision violates the flood protection provisions of the city’s EnvisionCR comprehensive plan to embrace the natural systems and support the riverfront greenway.

But the judge in ruling on the future land use map found nothing in the council’s vote was “unreasonable, arbitrary, capricious, or lacking substantial evidence in the record.”

Comments: (319) 398-8494; marissa.payne@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.