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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 -- The Sioux City Council postponed a vote Monday to rezone land north of 41st Street, near North Middle School, for a proposed residential subdivision in hopes that the developer and property owners can reach a compromise.

Rodney Lieber, of Lieber Land Holdings, LLC, plans to excavate most of the soil away to make room for an approximately 35-acre residential subdivision at 2321 41st St. Lieber is asking the city to rezone the plotted land, which is currently agricultural, as suburban residential.

The Planning and Zoning Commission of Sioux City unanimously voted June 25 to recommend rezoning and move the project forward for council approval.

Resident Tina Hall told the council that she is opposed to the development because it will dramatically alter the Loess Hills. She said this type of land erodes, sloughs and is difficult to keep in place.

"I feel strongly that we need to do something about protecting the Loess Hills. We can't just use them in marketing and say we have Loess Hills and then cut them down," she said. "I'm not opposed to development, but I am opposed to this development of this site. I think this zoning category requires some dramatic alteration of the land."

Ryan Callahan, Lieber's engineer, said if Hall wanted the land preserved, she should've bought it. Mayor Bob Scott shot back, saying Lieber should've come to the city with a purchase agreement contingent on rezoning.

"I vote for development most everywhere, but come before you make that purchase agreement binding. Don't come after you bought the property and say, 'I've gotta be able to do something with this,'" he said. "That's what bothers me, because you put this council in a pretty bad position."

Lieber said his project will help Sioux City grow and make the area a better place. Currently, he said water from the hilltop runs down toward North Middle School. 

"I don't know if they have water issues or not," he said. "I'm going to correct that. If anything, it's going to make the school a safer, better place."

Councilman Dan Moore proposed that the developer, residents and representatives from the city come together to have a discussion to see if a compromise can be reached.

Councilwoman Rhonda Capron said if she had to vote Monday, her vote would be "no," because the project, which could take up to 10 years to complete, would negatively impact current residents' quality of life.

"Those hills, I'm going to guess, are at least three stories high. You're talking three to five years just getting the dirt out, hauling it on our roads. You have all these trucks going back and forth," she said. "Who wants to see trucks going on three to five years? That's just the excavation. Then, you're going to do construction. You're talking another three to five years or even longer."

Resident Renee Weinberg said she is concerned that trucks hauling dirt in and out of the area would put the safety of children at risk.

"I think that there are lots of areas that we could get dirt. It doesn't have to be the Loess Hills," she said. "You have thousands of trucks over five years that are going to be going down Outer Belt through Leeds or Hamilton Boulevard. They're going to be flying by these schools. This is a safety issue."

Resident Jane Hey said erosion is going to cause "massive problems for the adjacent streets, landowners and schools." She said she wants to know if property owners will have to build their own retaining walls.

"I urge the City Council to reject this application, since control of erosion at this site poses a dangerous and costly problem for the city, taxpayers and residents," she said.

Councilman Alex Watters said he wants the area to be developed, because Sioux City needs more homes, but he said he also wants to preserve the landscape.

"At end of the day, it's going to have to work for everyone," he said.

The rezoning request will come back before the council in two weeks.

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