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Planning commission endorses new rail yard in face of public backlash

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KWWL) – The Cedar Rapids City Planning Commission endorsed Cargill Corn Milling’s plan for a new rail yard in the Rompot/Cedar Valley neighborhood on Thursday; moving it to city council with their recommendation.

Members of the city staff recommended the commission approve Cargill’s proposed project after a third-party did studies to analyze home depreciation, noise and air quality concerns.

More than 20 neighbors in the community spoke-out against the plan during Thursday’s public comment.

“Protect us from this atrocity,” Mary McBride said.

Iowa State Senator Robert Hogg, D-Linn County, also discouraged the commission from approving the rail yard.

“You need to think about what you’re going to do for the neighborhood,” Hogg said. “I don’t buy a report that says it’s not going affect home values.”

The commission did add that their endorsement was contingent on Cargill having up to four more public input meetings with the neighbors; after one member says the lengthy public comment shows the rail company hadn’t done enough.

“It’s really clear, that however this moves forward, Cargill has work to do with the neighborhood,” commission member Linda Langston said.

Groups also spoke in support of the plan, like the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance.

“They (Cargill) haven’t acted like a ‘giant,’ they’ve acted like a neighbor,” Former Mayor Ron Corbett said on behalf of the alliance. “We’re an industrial town, we grew up an industrial town.”

The commission also suggested city council approve an “essential services” tag for the development, which would only require only one approval from council, instead of three.

While the residents were heartbroken after the 5-1 decision, they know the war isn’t lost yet.

“I’m not discouraged by what happened today. We’re going to continue to talk, we’re gonna continue to lay our thoughts out there, and we’ll see how Cargill and the city choose to react,” Kerry Sanders, spokesperson for Build Trails Not Rails, said.

Travis Breese

Reporter, Iowa City

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