Plan to excavate undeveloped Loess Hills land draws criticism from some citizens
Hoping to protect a hill

Plan to excavate undeveloped Loess Hills land draws criticism from some citizens

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Loess Hills development

Sioux City developer Rod Lieber has proposed to excavate the hill above North Middle School to create a new housing subdivision. Mayor Bob Scott said Lieber will likely next week withdraw his request for the city to rezone the property.

SIOUX CITY -- A proposal to clear soil away from a high hill that lies north of 41st Street, near North Middle School, has drawn opposition from some citizens concerned about the environmental impact of the development plan. 

If the Sioux City Council agrees Monday night, Rodney Lieber and his excavation company will be one step closer to removing most of the soil away from the hill to make way for future construction.

Lieber is the owner of the land at 2321 41st St. According to public records, Lieber's plan is to excavate most of the soil away to make room for an approximately 35-acre residential subdivision. However, the plotted land is currently zoned as agricultural. 

The Planning and Zoning Commission of Sioux City voted June 25 in Lieber's favor to rezone the land, but the brakes are still on and land cannot be broken just yet. The City Council on Monday is scheduled to decide whether to allow the rezoning of the land to suburban residential.

Due to the highly erodible soil that is commonly found in this region of Iowa, the decision to remove the hill could have extreme environmental consequences, according to Graham McGaffin, the Loess Hills project director of The Nature Conservancy.  

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Tyler & Floyd
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Historical fire station
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Elmwood Mansion
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Hawthorne School
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Leeds Airport

Some citizens, like Carrie Radloff and Tina Hall, are actively fighting against the excavation plan. They are trying to save what they believe to be the historic and environmental jewel that is the Loess Hills.

Tina Hall said that she has an active role in this fight for multiple reasons, but the most pressing is that part of her land, about 20 acres east of Buckwalter Drive, abuts the land that Lieber is looking to excavate. Through erosion, part of her land could be affected, she said.

Hall said that she is not only concerned for her own property, but for the well-being of others and their property in the surrounding area. 

"It's going to change their lives dramatically," Hall said, referencing the steep cuts into the hill that may erode with rainfall, wind and other weather. "The city ought to protect its resources."

According to the map of the desired area of excavation and construction, the road that could be used to haul soil out connects to 41st Street, bypassing several existing residential homes. Hall and Radloff said they were concerned that those home owners would be compromised by dirty air, mudslides and other issues resulting from excavation. 

McGaffin agreed with Radloff's and Hall's environmental concerns. He said removing the prairie grass and soil that currently holds the hilly environment in place could lead to mudslides that damage structures.

Regardless of the City Council's decision, Hall said she has to keep fighting to preserve her hometown's environment. 

"You feel you can't fight City Hall," she said. "I feel you've got to try."

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