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Neighbors say Cargill construction has gotten out of hand

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Dusty crane snip
A crane swivels around after dropping dirt into a dump truck on July 23
Rob snip 7.27
State Senator and Rompot neighbor Rob Hogg
Trucks snip
Trucks crowding roads in the Rompot neighborhood. Courtesy: Megan Du Charme on Facebook

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KWWL) - One month after construction started on the Cargill rail yard in southeast Cedar Rapids, neighbors are fed up with noise, dust and traffic. They also say the city needs to actively watch the site for possible violations of the Development Agreement, and not wait for emails from residents.

City Council approved Cargill's plan to build a rail yard on a 28-acre parcel south of Otis Ave Southeast in December 2019. The yard will be used to attach and detach train cars before they head to Cargill's Cedar Rapids plant located at 1710 16th Street SE.

The city had to change both its Future Land Use Map and zoning code to make the lot suitable for an industrial project like this. The lot was an open space wildlife corridor. The city previously used $33,000 of state funding from the Resource Enhancement and Protection grant program (REAP) to beautify the parcel.

"It really causes harm to the neighborhood," Rob Hogg said, a state senator who lives .5 miles from the construction site. Hogg filed two lawsuits against the city for its decision to amend the Future Land Use Map and zoning code.

Since construction started on June 28, neighbors have been shocked with the level of dust and noise coming from the site.

"I hear it basically all day every day," Hogg said, who says he can clearly hear the construction while in his living room with all the windows closed.

Dump trucks have also been coming in and out of the Rompot neighborhood for the last few weeks. Hogg says the neighborhood got a third party to estimate how many loads of dirt a project this size required; their answer was 10,000. Hogg says at a neighborhood meeting this spring, Cargill agreed it would be about that many.

There are "No Truck Route" signs throughout the Rompot neighborhood. Many of the streets did not allow trucks until Cargill got a special permit this spring.

Cargill Cedar Rapids Manager Dan Pulis told KWWL over email that the dry summer weather has led to more dust than they would have liked coming form the lot. He says they are spraying the area with water throughout the day to mitigate the spread of dust.

Pulis also said safety for pedestrians and bicycle riders is a top priority for Cargill, and they tell all their dump truck drivers to be cautious when driving through the neighborhood.

The neighbors found Cargill parking vehicles on a portion of the 28-acre parcel which is owned by the city. That parcel is supposed to be maintained for a prairie pollinator zone.

"I looked at the map we had and I thought, "Wait, why are these vehicles being parked over here?'" Barbara Stary said, who emailed Cedar Rapids Development Services about the violation on July 21. Later that day, Ken DeKeyser, the head of Development Services, emailed Cargill asking them to move the vehicles.

"There was a misunderstanding between the City and Cargill, which was immediately rectified when brought to our attention," Pulis said over email. Pulis says 1/3 of an acre of prairie land was disturbed and they plan on replacing it.

About 10 neighbors went to Cedar Rapids City Council Tuesday, hoping to raise awareness. Even if they can't get the project reversed and denied, Hogg says they need the city watching construction more closely.

"It adds insult to injury that we are dealing with all these additional problems on top of a project that shouldn't have been approved in the first place," Hogg said.

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Travis Breese

Reporter, Iowa City

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