Creating green space

Recreation area required now by city in new housing developments


The addition of green space will become a reality in future housing developments in West Liberty, the city council hosting a public hearing of a new “parks set aide” ordinance on Tuesday, Sept. 15 at the regular, although virtual, meeting of the council held from the West Liberty Public Library.

The council took the next step in demanding developers set aside space for public recreation use in new developments after meetings with a local construction company that wants to create a housing development on 15 acres north of the Dutton Sports Complex.

With a housing shortage in the community, the company has been working with the city for nearly a year with hopes to build new single family, condominium and rental units on the land. There were hopes the subdivision would break ground in the spring, but the COVID-19 pandemic crisis put the project in limbo while the city also completed survey work to insure proper drainage for water and sewer.

The subdivision will be required to set aside five percent of its land for a park, walking trail or other green space tp serve the “immediate and future needs of the subdivision, development or neighborhoods or a cash contribution in lieu of actual land, dedication or combination of each.

Accrding to the ordinance, the city would have the right to designate the location of the area. The amount of land dedicated could not be wetlands, floodway, or storm detention facilities, unless deemed acceptable by the city’s Parks and Recreation Board of Directors.

The board approved the first reading of the new ordinance by a 4-0 vote.

According to city engineer Leo Foley of V & K Engineering in Rock Island, the developers are revising their original plans for the subdivision, building fewer structures initially to get the subdivision started.

In other action, the city approved their annual contribution of $52,000 to the WeLead economic development organization, which had made the request at the Sept. 1 work session. The city has funded the organization, which also obtains funds through membership donations, for many years.

The council also heard changes in two police policies including discussing and appropriating a nuisance abatement policy.

Police Chief Jeremy Burdess said the change in policy is to establish consistent procedures and guidance for staff to manage nuisance related issues.

Day-time officers will take on the task of scouting for nuisance violations, working with the city building inspector and/or administrative staff before submitting a notice of violation. Each officer is to follow up on each case until it is closed.

The council also heard a change of policy for new hires in the police department seeking education for certification, classes that could cost as much at $20,000. Chief Burdess said officers signing onto the force will be required to sign a contract that will commit them to at least four years of duty in West Liberty after becoming certified.

He said the agreement would keep more officers on the force. An officer taking the class and leaving early would be charged appropriately.

Council member Jose Zacarius said called the new policy “very fair” and said the city’s investment in the training of an officer should have some “protection.”

Burdess said the policy is “pretty standard” on most police forces and said West Liberty was getting more in line with other police departments. He worked with Zacharias and council member Robby Rock on the new policy, as well as city management.

The council was also asked to think about city Halloween activities including the annual “trick or treat trail” event put on by the city’s Parks and Recreation Deparment along the Heritage walking trail on the west edge of the community. Park Director Nick Heath also asked the city to think about regular trick or treat hours and concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. The council will make decisions on the holiday events at their next meeting in October.

Council members also learned of a meeting with West Liberty Foods on Sept. 22 to discuss a study of wastewater treatment for the community. The business asked for the study, which should be able to tell what percentage of the treatment plant is being used by the turkey processing facility.