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Cedar Rapids homeowners win appeal of lower court's decision denying them a hearing in its lawsuit against city over Cargill project

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The Court of Appeal of Iowa issued a ruling on Tuesday in favor of Cedar Rapids property owners who appealed the District Court of Linn County's decision to deny them a hearing on their lawsuit against the Cedar Rapids City Council.

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KWWL) - The Court of Appeals of Iowa issued a ruling on Tuesday in favor of Cedar Rapids property owners who appealed the District Court of Linn County's decision to deny them a hearing on their lawsuit against the Cedar Rapids City Council. 
 
That lawsuit centered on the city's amendments to its land use plans in 2019 to approve the Cargill railyard project in their neighborhood.
 
The Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday the District Court for Linn County denied the homeowners the hearing they were entitled to and sent the case back to the lower court to address the merits of the case.
 
Those merits include that the city violated its own long-standing land use plans that homeowners relied upon when they bought their homes -- on public property used as a state-funded prairie. 
 
State Senator Robert Hogg and his wife are the homeowners suing the Cedar Rapids City Council.
 
"We weren't supposed to be next to an industrial railyard.  We were supposed to be next to a prairie pollinator zone," Hogg said.

He says the project also violates the city's flood plans, which include:
 
"Keeping this property in permanent public ownership and that's why they applied for the state money to put the prairie here because that was supposed to be a permanent solution to prevent future flood damage," Hogg said.

That flood plan included $269 million of state funding and $175 million of federal funding.
 
That's an issue he argues has broad public importance for all of Cedar Rapids and the state.
 
The District Court said a hearing on these issues was unnecessary.
 
"If they can do this to us in this neighborhood, the city can do it to any neighborhood and quite honestly, if that's the state of Iowa law, any city in anywhere in the state can do this to any residential neighborhood and that's not right," Hogg said.

On Tuesday, the Court of Appeals said, in part, "We are sensitive to the nature of these proceedings and their importance to the citizens of Iowa," and that the process of a hearing "must guide the result," and remanded to the District Court for a hearing on the merits.
 
Now, the lower court must hear the homeowners' claims and petition. 
 
Hogg says the homeowners hope the court will stop the operation of the industrial railyard in their residential neighborhood. 
 
"[It] is to have the court set aside the land use changes that were approved in December of 2019 and once those land use changes are set aside, then we go back to the prior land use and none of this complies with that."
 
When asked who would be responsible for restoring the prairie that has already been mostly destroyed, Hogg said:
 
"That's a good question. I don't know."
 
KWWL asked the city of Cedar Rapids for an interview or a statement.  A spokesperson for the city said: 
 
"It is city policy to not comment or provide interviews regarding pending litigation."

Cargill did not respond to KWWL's phone calls on Wednesday.