Iowa City City Council votes to move ahead with Hickory Hill Housing plan

The Iowa City City Council heard from the Hickory Trail Estates developers from Nelson Development and Iowa City residents before making their vote on Tuesday.


Kate Heston

Mayor of Iowa City, Bruce Teague, speaks during an online Iowa City City Council meeting on June 15. The meeting covered topics such as Juneteenth, COVID, and planning and zoning matters. (Kate Heston/The Daily Iowan)

Emily Delgado, News Reporter

After multiple meetings and plan revisions, Hickory Trail Estates will be rezoned and transformed into housing, despite community pushback that the plan would not fit with the natural landscape of the park.

Community members pushed for a “buffer zone” that would protect the land. A main argument against the plan was the fact that the housing is not affordable, with sizes ranging from 15,000 and 35,000 square feet.

The city council passed the rezoning plan 6-1 Tuesday night via Zoom. City Councilor John Thomas was the only councilor to vote against the Hickory Hill housing plan.

The development covers 47.8 acres of land and will be detached single-family housing. Hickory Hill Park will be expanded by 11-14 acres during the development’s construction.

Hickory Trail Estates Developer Joseph Clark told the councilors that Friends of Hickory Hill Park and Planning and Zoning Commission worked together to revise the housing plan to supply a single-loaded street to comply with city regulations. A single-loaded street acts as a scenic buffer and gives one-way access to a public space.

The original plan included single-family homes, condos, and an assisted living facility. The Planning and Zoning Commission voted 0-7 on the original rezoning plan in February. The most recent revisions to the plan exclude condos in the development.

“We have complied with their request, and removed 17 single-family lots from the western South side of the street, and ultimately reduced the size of the lots on the east side of the street,” Clark said at the Tuesday meeting.

The plan was revised multiple times by the Planning and Zoning Commission before being presented to the council, Clark said.

“Our concept and preliminary plan are in line with the requirements imposed upon us as developers, and I’m asking you tonight to vote yes for rezoning on this great project,” Clark said.

The first revision eliminated and reduced the widths of five single-family lots in order to add two more lots on the east side of the trail.

The second plan revision removed the condos on the Northwest side, a dedicated acreage to expand Hickory Hill Park.

Many Iowa City residents present at the meeting were adamant that the plan will not be in the best interest of the city and the community around Hickory Hill Park.

City Councilor Laura Bergus said while the plan is not satisfactory to many people, she supports the Hickory Hill Housing Plan.

“It has been reviewed by Planning and Zoning to get them to the point of recommending approval, and hearing some of their reasoning during our work session this evening helped me to understand that this is another opportunity where the council might reject the good because it’s not perfect,” Bergus said.

Bergus said the other plans feature fewer housing options after the plan featuring condos for the development was eliminated.

“I think having that variety of housing types in a single development is really important and it is an articulated goal,” Bergus said.