Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Location: Freeport, IL
|Posted: Apr 09, 2007 6:29 am Post subject: Safety (and NIMBY) issues slowing Scoular's new Neola build
|I'm thinking this is much ado about nothing...but I'd hate to be wrong. From the Coucil Bluffs Nonpareil:
Proposed grain elevator raises concerns
TOM MCMAHON , Staff Writer
Several Neola-area homeowners want a proposed grain elevator construction plan dismantled. Sharon Divin said the proposed Scoular grain elevator site, about one half mile south of Tri-Center schools off Iowa Highway 191, raises personal concerns and school safety issues.
Divin bought property near the proposed site and built a new home there four years ago. She's been trying to sell it, but said an interested buyer wants to wait and see if the grain elevator will be built before closing the deal.
"They are not interested if the elevator is built," Divin said. "Property values will plunge."
She also has a 10-year-old daughter and said truck traffic to and from the proposed facility would create safety risks for Tri-Center students and school buses traveling on Highway 191.
"I'll be honest, I don't want it in my back yard; but there are real safety concerns for kids, parents and teachers at the school," Divan said.
Tri-Center Superintendent Brett Nanninga requested in a Feb. 13 letter that the Pottawattamie County Zoning Commission, Pottawattamie County Board of Supervisors and Scoular pay attention to the proposed facility's transportation patterns and "that appropriate actions be taken to mitigate the risks associated with large numbers of heavy trucks sharing the same road space with hundreds of students, staff and family members traveling to and from school and school functions in the mornings, late afternoons and on some evenings throughout the week."
In the letter, Nanninga and the Board of Education stated they view area economic development positively and "(have) no desire to encroach on the county's purview for commercial planning, but we felt compelled to register our interests on behalf of the Tri-Center community."
The letter expresses concern that Highway 191 is the only access to the school campus and the primary commercial access to the proposed grain facility.
Pottawattamie County Engineer John Rasmussen said his office determined that no additional turn lanes or traffic lights would be needed based on additional traffic volume of 100 trucks per day.
"I know you can't figure teen drivers into the equation," he said. "I assume everyone will drive safely."
Nanninga said he doesn't want to overstate the transportation issue.
"We've had traffic going by the school for years," he said. "And we only have major school traffic in the morning and afternoon."
He said he is surprised there have not been previous attempts to develop the area, which sits near the I-80, I-680 junction.
Scoular Division Operations Manager Mike Lesmeister said getting the area zoned from agricultural to commercial is the first step in the process. The Pottawattamie County Planning and Zoning Commission will make its recommendation to the Board of Supervisors after touring the area April 16. A public hearing has already been held.
Lesmeister said Scoular presented its proposal at a Neola town hall meeting about a month ago. He said the company has forwarded about 30 letters of support and a petition with 60 signatures favoring the elevator's construction.
Divin also objects to a proposed train loop that would bring more rail traffic near her home.
"They are proposing 110 cars a week that would loop around the back of my house on their way back to Council Bluffs," she said.
Dennis McDonald lives near Divin and shares many of her concerns.
"A high number of semis and 900 kids spells trouble," he said. "I am not only concerned about the 16-year-olds driving but also the school buses and parents, and others going to the school and to games."
McDonald, who lives on Whippoorwill Road near the proposed site, said truck traffic on the road concerns him. He said a single-lane 50-year-old bridge is the only access residents have to Highway 191.
"That bridge could not have been designed 50 years ago to accommodate a lot of trucks," he said. "And I don't think taxpayers should have to foot the bill for a new bridge."
Rasmussen said his office determined the bridge could support the proposed grain elevator traffic for about 10 to 15 years, at which point weight limits would be reduced.
McDonald sees the benefits to area farmers but thinks a better location could be found.
Roger Hall, Farmer and Merchants State Bank president, said his Neola branch has not taken a position on the proposed site. It is located near the grain elevator location.
"We like to see development, but also are concerned about safety," he said. "We are not out being big cheerleaders, but we are not big opponents."
Hall said he hopes both sides can get together and resolve the concerns.
Lesmeister said zoning is the first step.
"It's not like we're going to be turning dirt if it is approved," he said.
He said obtaining tax increment financing and negotiating acceptable train rates would be among "hurdles" the proposed facility would have to navigate.
"We will do whatever we have to in order to meet any requirements."