Sen. Rob Hogg leads walking tours to show impact of proposed Cargill rail yard as next rezoning vote looms

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Walking tour from Rompot to Prairie Park Fishery

Helen Court SE and Otis Avenue SE, Cedar Rapids — Wednesday, Nov. 27 at noon and Saturday, Nov. 30 at 1 p.m.

Sunday’s Rompot to Prairie Park Fishery walking tour — courtesy of state Sen. Rob Hogg’s Twitter

Despite the Cedar Rapids City Council unanimously backing Cargill’s plans for a rail yard at its last meeting, Rompot residents aren’t giving up.

It’s likely the company will receive permission to build its rail yard, but the rezoning proposal must be voted on two more times before the change happens. The votes are scheduled for the next two city council meetings on Dec. 3 and Dec. 17; however, the council could choose to combine the two votes and approve the rezoning at its Dec. 3 meeting, which begins at noon at Cedar Rapids City Hall.

Ahead of those votes, state Sen. Rob Hogg is leading walking tours from the Rompot neighborhood to Prairie Park Fishery. Residents have argued these two areas will be negatively affected by the 200-car rail yard that would operate 12 hours a day, every day of the year.

Hogg has already conducted two tours and has two more scheduled for Wednesday at 12 p.m. and Saturday at 1 p.m.

Tours begin at the corner of Helen Court SE and Otis Avenue SE. Participants will see the Rompot neighborhood, the Prairie Pollinator Zone, the 2008 Cedar River floodplain and the Prairie Park Fishery.

The tour takes approximately 75 minutes, according to the event posting. The route is not fully accessible for those with mobility issues, due to hills and a lack of sidewalks in certain areas.

The conflict between Cargill and Rompot residents has been going on for nearly two years, as the plans have shifted back and forth between a city-owned property along Stewart and the so-called “farm property” on Otis Road. Both sites border the Rompot neighborhood.

Cargill’s most recent proposal focuses on the Stewart Road property.

Residents have been vocal throughout the process, speaking out against Cargill’s plans at community meetings and at various city public hearings. Residents are concerned about how the rail yard would radically change the neighborhood’s character, and the environmental impacts. Various individuals, including Hogg, have also brought up the fact that, when they purchased their homes, they did not anticipate a rail yard next door.

After the last city council meeting, Hogg said Rompot residents could take the city to court, but conceded that option might be too expensive for them to pursue.

Hogg told Little Village it’s not uncommon for land use decisions to go to district court. He mentioned how he’s handled similar cases as an attorney and knows “how difficult it is.”

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“This is a major rezoning from urban low density to industrial use in a residential neighborhood, in a floodplain next to the newest city park — Prairie Park Fishery — on a site that has been dedicated as a Prairie Pollinator Zone,” Hogg said. “So I think there are a lot of good issues if it does go to court. Obviously, there’s a cost associated with that. There’s time associated with that. So we’ll see what happens.”

The issue is personal for Hogg, who lives on Otis Road. Before he and his wife, Kate, purchased their home, they carefully reviewed the land use plans, because they didn’t want to be in this position.

“It does create for me the problem of, ‘Is this the place I want to continue to live?’” Hogg said.

“When we bought this place, which is where we thought we would live the rest of our lives, I never thought that a large industrial rail yard would get dumped in my neighborhood, and I’d have to be thinking about these things.”

“Basically the city council so far has chosen Cargill over me and my family and our neighbors and this great community resource,” he said. “That’s just a painful thing to experience.”

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