CEDAR RAPIDS — If the City Council agrees with a recommendation made by the city Planning Commission on Thursday, Indian Creek Nature Center will be allowed to sell six to eight acres of partially wooded land for commercial development.
The commission, on a 7-0 vote, agreed to change the city’s future land use map and zoning map to shift the property in question — along Highway 100 east of First Avenue SE — from residential use to commercial use. No one from the public objected.
The City Council now must approve the matter.
The land planned for development is part of a 35-acre piece of ground donated to the center by Carleen Grandon and her husband, Dr. Eugene Grandon, who died in 2003.
Earlier this month, Carleen Grandon said she intended for the facility to use the donated land however it sees fit.
Director Rich Patterson told the commission on Thursday that the nature center intends to keep the rest of the 35 acres in a permanent conservation status, so it will remain timber and won’t be developed.
He also said money from the sale of the commercial parcel will be added to the center’s endowment. Interest from that fund will support the employment of two staff members to help manage the facility’s land and improve programming for children, he said.
Even so, selling part of the donated land for commercial development has put Patterson and the nature center’s board of directors in an unexpected position of cutting down trees.
Much of the development ground, though, is a piece of a former golf course that’s not heavily wooded and does not have many quality trees, Patterson has said.
After Thursday’s commission meeting, Patterson said three companies have expressed some interest in the land, which fronts Highway 100 next to the Slumberland furniture store.
The center may be able to sell six to eight acres for as much as $2.5 million, Patterson has said, and in fact the Hobby Lobby company once signed an offer to buy the property but then withdrew from the deal.
Commission member Allan Thoms said offering the piece of land for commercial development was the “highest and best use” for it. He also questioned whether the rest of the 35 acres should put in conservation status forever, saying the time may come when it makes sense to develop more of the property.
Fellow member Michael Tertinger disagreed, saying it was good to set aside land permanently for conservation. Vern Zakostelecky, a planner in the city’s Community Development Department, said land set aside for conservation can have that status removed later by City Council action.