By Cindy Hadish
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Dozens of residents walked the nature corridor Sunday where ag giant Cargill plans to build an industrial railyard in a residential neighborhood.
Led by State Sen. Rob Hogg, (D-Cedar Rapids) more than 50 people toured the site south of Otis Avenue, west of Cole Street SE, approved last week by the City Council to be rezoned from suburban residential large lot to general industrial. Two more readings are needed for the rezoning, scheduled for Dec. 3, and possibly Dec. 17, if the final two readings are not combined.
No City Council members attended the walk, which was designed by Hogg primarily for Cedar Rapids residents unfamiliar with the area.
If all goes according to Cargill’s plans, the 12-track, 200-car industrial railyard will be up and running by this time next year in land currently designated a Prairie Pollinator Zone, next to Prairie Park Fishery.
Runners, cyclists and walkers will breathe in pollutants emitted just feet away from the trail that surrounds the popular fishery once the proposed railyard is in place. No buffers are planned between the park and railyard, which will operate 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., 365 days of the year.
Cargill officials have said they may have to rethink the future of their Cedar Rapids corn milling plant on Otis Road SE if the City Council did not approve the railyard.
In addition to approving the first reading of the rezoning, council members on Nov. 19 voted unanimously to amend the city’s future land use map from urban low intensity to urban high intensity.
“They’re selling us down the river,” said John Schriner, whose home on Helen Court SE is just yards from the 28-acre city-owned site where the railyard is proposed to go. “They don’t care about us.”
Hogg, who lives on Otis Road SE, noted that residents in the area, including the Rompot neighborhood — hard-hit by the 2008 flood — don’t have the financial resources to fight Cargill, which has been working with the city on the proposal for about two years.
He cited several reasons why the proposal should not move forward, including the location of the site in a flood plain. Hogg added that Cargill will use chemical herbicides to control weeds, which will drain into the lake at Prairie Park Fishery.
City Staff noted at the last council meeting that homes in the neighborhood will not be protected from flooding by the berm that Cargill promises to build as a buffer.
Hogg has scheduled two more opportunities for people to tour and learn about the site, at noon Wednesday, Nov. 27, and 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30.
He asked residents to contact the Cedar Rapids City Council before the second reading at noon Tuesday, Dec. 3, and urge them to vote “no” on the rezoning for the Cargill railyard and to explain why.
More: City “held hostage” by Cargill demands. See other photos from the tour, below: