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Building Moratorium A Possibility

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) Its something that virtually everyone agrees Cedar Rapids needs, but wont get for quite a while still.

Flood protection along the Cedar River could save plenty of land from another catastrophic flood, but preparation for it also might damage some local property values now. The latest step in getting ready for flood protection is a proposed 90-day moratorium on any building or improvements on some properties close to the river on the northwest side.

The idea is to let the city talk with the businesses and people who still live there to better coordinate the next step in protection, which is coming sooner than you might think.

"It's an attempt by the city, what I see, it to devalue people's property value so that they can try to acquire it later on at a lower price, said Mike Augustine, who lives just outside the zone where the moratorium will take effect if approved. He says hes heard rumors about similar action being taken on the property he owns.

That might be one of the few things Mike and the city agree on.

"One of the primary reasons is we don't want to end up paying a lot more for these properties because somebody's invested additional funds in them, said Councilman Kris Gulick.

Gulick is behind the move because its taxpayer money that will ultimately be used to buy the land. What triggered the move is the $60,000 price tag to provide quality water service to just a few occupied homes.

"We're spending an awful lot of money as a community for just a few people, said Councilwoman Ann Poe.

Gregory Vail lives in one of the few remaining homes along First Street NW. He says he could solve that issue by pulling well water from beneath his home and take himself off the citys water system. As for the moratorium, he has doubts about its effectiveness.

"I have a right to do what I want to with my property, I have a right to rebuild by property, I have a right to rebuild by property and keep it safe, said Vail.

But the proposed moratorium is an early step in a much larger move toward flood protection.

"We're in the position that we feel months away now from determining where that flood protection system will be and exactly how those homes will be impacted, said Assistant City Manager Sandi Fowler.

Those plans are expected sometime this fall. When its time to make those blueprints a reality, Fowler says the city does have the ability to move people from their current homes in the name of increasing the public good. Councilman Justin Shields says this kind of planning really shouldnt be a surprise to anyone.

"Everybody knew at some point in time, we would be coming towards the day that we're getting closer to. So this is nothing new, said Shields.

One business owner did stand up and say he needs the ability to expand the building that his business is in as his business grows and that the moratorium wouldnt let him do that.

Fowler says thats exactly why the moratorium being only 90 days is a good thing. It would halt building for now until all the people who will be affected by flood protection have a chance to learn exactly how theyll be affected and invest in their land in better ways.
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