UPDATED 10 p.m. with statement from Cargill
Residents opposed to Cargill constructing an industrial railyard in a prairie pollinator zone in their Cedar Rapids neighborhood were unfairly denied a hearing, according to the Iowa Court of Appeals.
The court ordered in its Nov. 23, 2021, opinion that plaintiffs Rob and Kate Hogg and neighboring homeowners should have a district court hearing.
“We are sensitive to the nature of these proceedings and their importance to the citizens of Iowa,” Judge Sharon Soorholtz-Greer wrote in the opinion.
Cargill began construction on the railyard earlier this year in the modest-income Rompot neighborhood of southeast Cedar Rapids.
“We are pleased the Court of Appeals reversed the district court and remanded for further proceedings,” the Hoggs and attorney James Larew, representing the neighboring homeowners who intervened, said in a statement.
They asked that construction of the railyard be suspended.
“We continue to advocate for the City and state law to honor the long-standing land use plans on which residents relied in buying and investing in homes, and for the public interest in protecting the floodplain as called for under the City’s land use plans including the flood control system master plan,” the statement said. “We believe the City should order a halt to any further activities related to the planned railyard until all legal issues are fully addressed and resolved.”
The court did not rule on the merits of their claims, but reversed the decision by Sixth Judicial District Judge Mary Chicchelly on procedural grounds.
Related: Neighbors vow “This is not the end”
Chicchelly denied the petition by the Hoggs and other neighbors, who argued that the city’s Future Land Use Map amendment, at Cargill’s request, violated the city’s own Flood Control System Master Plan and comprehensive plan, among other issues.
Despite objections from numerous neighbors and users of the Prairie Park Fishery, which abuts the 28-acre property at Stewart Road and Otis Avenue SE, the Cedar Rapids City Council voted in December 2019 in favor of rezoning the site from suburban residential large lot to general industrial, and approved a development agreement that will allow the multinational company to operate the railyard 12 hours every day, 365 days per year.
Dan Pulis, Cedar Rapids Corn Milling Facility Manager, issued the following statement:
“The recent decision by the Iowa Court of Appeals addressed a procedural issue and does not restrict or otherwise limit Cargill’s rights to proceed forward with the rail yard project in the manner approved by the Cedar Rapids City Council. We look forward to continuing to work with the neighbors and community partners in implementing the project.”
Representatives of the city of Cedar Rapids did not immediately respond to a request for comment.