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ACLUD approves zoning for railroad


The Amana Colonies Land Use District (ACLUD) Board of Trustees approved a request to rezone land west of Homestead to accommodate a proposed diesel engine maintenance facility.

ACLUD approved a request from Iowa Interstate Railroad Ltd. to rezone 60 acres of land just west of the intersection of Highway 6 and Highway 151 as industrial-2 property.

Interstate Railroad intends to build a diesel engine maintenance facility that can service three locomotives at once.

ACLUD approved the rezoning request with a vote of 3-2, with several members of the public expressing concern about the noise the facility will create, as well as the possibility the facility will be visually unappealing.

ACLUD trustees Reynold Moessner, Dennis Hahn and Bill Yoder voted in favor of rezoning the property. ACLUD trustees Doris Hahn and Mike Sandersfeld voted against the rezoning request. Trustees Lynn Trumpold and Peter Hoehnle were absent.

Patrick Sheldon, vice president of engineering for Iowa Interstate Railroad, told the board the railroad currently has two diesel engine maintenance facilities located along the route between Council Bluffs and Chicago. One facility, that can service four locomotives at one time, is located in Council Bluffs, he said. The second facility, which is located in Iowa City, can service one locomotive at a time.

Sheldon said they have a need to expand the facility in Iowa City, but there is no room in the current location.

Sheldon noted that 17 employees currently work at the Iowa City location, and if they build a new facility in Amana, they anticipate hiring eight additional workers.

Tom Klemm, the public works/real estate engineer for Iowa Interstate Railroad said the company has not retained an engineer or architect for the project.

The preliminary plans produced by Klemm show that the building would be 232 feet long and 147.5 feet wide. The building would be 44 feet at its tallest point.

He said they anticipate adding berms along Highway 151. Klemm said they are looking for ideas to blend the facility into the countryside.

In a letter dated May 11 that was sent to several officials, Amana resident Mary Gutheinz said she is highly opposed to the rezoning efforts.

“I view this as beautiful Iowa River Valley farmland that actually enhances the historic approach to the remaining Amana Colonies,” wrote Gutheinz. “Building two additional railroad tracks and a maintenance facility will add no value to the beauty and historic integrity of the approach to the colonies.”

During the public hearing, Brian Gutheinz said the ACLUD board should “extract a bribe” from Iowa International Railroad in order to keep the trains from parking at the facility on weekends.

He also stated, that when he was the acting president of the ACLUD board, the board would not have approved a zoning request without more information.

During the public hearing held June 7, Amana resident David Forbes said he was concerned the impact the potential development would have on the community. Forbes said the facility would have a visual impact on an area that was once open space.

“It is hard to hide trains,” Forbes said.

He said he was also concerned about the level of train activity at the new facility. He said trains backing in and out could cause a level of noise.

Sheldon said train cars would be sitting at the facility on occasion, and that railroad cars will be at the site every day, but not 24 hours a day.

“The facility is not a switching yard,” Sheldon said. “It will power the trains and they will move one.”

Jim Roemig, Amana, asked when trains would be operating at the facility. Roemig noted the trains are currently not much of a nuisance.

Sheldon said most activity would be between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., with an occasional train operating after 10 p.m.

“I don’t anticipate any more (traffic) than right now, based on the schedule,” Sheldon said. “I don’t see traffic patterns — timewise — changing.”

Amana Society, Inc., President and CEO John Peterson said he visited the Iowa City facility on a typical day of operation and said there are several homes located next to the facility. He said the trains cause a low rumble, but the noise is not offensive.

ACLUD President Reynold Moessner said the board is only approving the rezoning of the land from ACOS to industrial. He said Iowa International Railroad still needs to bring the building permit for approval. He said the railroad company has one year to bring the building permit for approval and begin construction.

He said the building permit must include information regarding elevations, complete drawings of the berms, landscaping, walkways, type of surfacing for parking areas, any signs, any stormwater drainage, lighting, etc.

“These are all the guidelines we need to have so we can make a firm decision,” Moessner said. “This is just for rezoning. After they send in the architect’s design, then we approve, or don’t approve, the building permit.”

UPDATED June 15, 2010 12:27 PM

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