CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — The Cedar Rapids Country Club’s request to rezone property for a new tennis facility is on hold, for now.
With only five members voting due to conflicts with four City Council members, the council voted to table the club’s request to rezone more than 184 acres at 27th Street Drive SE, from S-RLL (Suburban Residential Large Lot) and S-RL1 (Suburban Residential Low Single Unit) to P-IN (Public Institutional.)
The City Council also voted to table the club’s request to vacate a portion of Fairway Terrace SE, where the Country Club intends to remove five homes to build the facility. Two homes have already been demolished.
Mayor Tiffany O’Donnell, whose husband is a member of the Country Club, and council member Tyler Olson, who also is a member, were advised to recuse themselves by the city’s Board of Ethics. Council member Ann Poe said she was advised by the city attorney to recuse herself, as she is a homeowner in the Country Club Heights neighborhood, and council member Marty Hoeger also recused himself, due to a business interest in the project.
The city received 77 petitions opposing the rezoning and slightly fewer for vacating the street, as well as written letters. About 10 people spoke during the public hearings, including neighbors and members of the Country Club.
“This is all about the money,” said T.L. Thousand, who lives in the neighborhood and led the petition drive. “There is no public benefit. This is a private club.”
Thousand is concerned that the demolitions and constructing the 35-foot-high tennis facility that will tower over homes will forever change the character of the neighborhood.
The city’s Historic Preservation Commission noted that Country Club Heights is listed as a priority for an intensive survey to see if the neighborhood qualifies for the National Register of Historic Places. The proposed changes could eliminate that eligibility.
A few neighbors said they weren’t necessarily opposed to the project, but wanted further guarantees on lighting, buffers, stormwater drainage and a building design more compatible with the neighborhood, with some describing the building in the renderings as a warehouse. Parking also was an issue, with a net addition of just two spaces.
In the end, the design and the other concerns were enough to convince council member Ashley Vanorny to ask that the matter be tabled. She was joined by council members Pat Loeffler and Dale Todd, who presided over the hearings due to the recusals of the mayor and Poe, who is mayor pro tem. Scott Overland and Scott Olson voted against tabling the first readings.
The Country Club will bring the requests back to the council once those items have been addressed.
“We don’t take this lightly,” Country Club General Manager Tom Feller said, adding that the project has been in the works for 24 years. “We want to make sure it fits the neighborhood.”
All of the homes the Country Club intends to demolish date to the late 1930s to 1940.
A sign shows the public hearing notice for the Cedar Rapids Country Club’s rezoning request in April 2022. (photo/Cindy Hadish)