Dubuque City Council approves industrial park land purchase amid concerns

Amid voiced concerns from residents, Dubuque City Council approved the purchase of a 156-acre property on Monday for the development of a new industrial park.

City Council members voted, 7-0, to approve a purchase agreement of the 156-acre property, located northwest of the Southwest Arterial and U.S. 61 intersection, for $4.2 million. City staff stated they took interest in the property due to its proximity to multiple highways and the Dubuque Regional Airport.

The city agreed to purchase the property from River City Development Group LLC for about $27,000 per acre. The company first purchased the property in 2005 for $962,647.

Three residents who live near the purchased property argued against the development of the industrial park.

Randy and Amy Vaassen, whose home is adjacent to the purchased property, expressed several concerns over the development of an industrial park, including posing issues over noise and pollution.

“It would be an industrial park in our front yard,” Randy Vaassen said. “All of our neighbors are feeling the same way we are.”

Steve Peters, who also lives near the property, expressed his fears of what could be potentially developed on the property in the future, if an industrial park is formed.

“We have horses on our property, and they will be right next to the industrial park,” Peters said. “There are a lot of unknowns with the whole situation.”

All of the residents who spoke against the property purchase said they were not informed ahead of time that the city was seeking to purchase the property, and the news of its proposed acquisition took them all by surprise.

“I thought I would have received some information that this was happening,” Vaassen said, later adding. “I think we need to consider the people who are going to get impacted by this.”

Speaking during the meeting, Rick Dickinson, president and CEO of Greater Dubuque Development Corporation, concurred with the residents’ calls for transparency and said his company would work to keep neighbors of the property informed in the future.

“As neighbors, you deserve to have a great neighbor and understand what is going on,” Dickinson said. “I assure that we will contact each of you.”

City Council members offered their support for the property purchase on Monday, arguing that the economic benefit of the purchase was too ideal to pass on.

“We aren’t going to get many of these opportunities right now, and it’s being sold at a decent price,” said Council Member Danny Sprank. “Here’s an opportunity to bring in more businesses. I don’t want to walk away from this opportunity.”

City Council Member Ric Jones argued that the property is better off in the hands of the city than any other private developer that could also purchase it, adding that the city can guide the development of the property to ensure it is not disruptive to surrounding property owners.

“You are better off with the city buying this property than anybody else buying the property,” Jones said. “We’ll have a very public process.”

City Council Member Brad Cavanagh also expressed his support for the project, arguing it serves as an essential element for future economic prosperity.

“I’m not just thinking about the next two or three years but the next 20 or 30,” Cavanagh said. “I think it’s important to think about what we want those neighbors to look like.”

City Manager Mike Van Milligen said the city could not inform nearby property owners of the property purchase due to it potentially compromising purchasing discussions with River City Development.

The city currently owns about 425 acres that is available for industrial development, which the city hopes to expand to 900 acres, based on previous industrial development needs assessments.

While the property is near existing water and sanitary sewer infrastructure, additional investment in infrastructure and utility installation will be required in order to ready the properties for future companies.

Van Milligen said the land would likely be sold to businesses for about $150,000 per acre.