The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa City residents voice concerns over proposed industrial development of former Kirkwood campus

Procter & Gamble asked the city to rezone the land so it can expand its current manufacturing facilities in the future.
Matthew Finley
Procter and Gamble is seen in Iowa City on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018.

Iowa City southside residents voiced concerns over air quality and pollution that could be brought on by a potential Procter & Gamble industrial development at the old Kirkwood Community College campus.

These concerns were brought up at Wednesday’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting. Procter & Gamble, a manufacturing company for brands like Febreeze and Dawn Dish Soap, asked the city to rezone the community college’s land so it could expand its industrial operations in the area.

At the beginning of last year, Kirkwood Community College announced it would sell its Iowa City campus and relocate to Coralville. The current campus and its buildings, located on Lower Muscatine Road, are not being used.

In November, Oral B, whose parent company is Procter & Gamble, purchased a portion of the campus.

At the meeting, Joe Townsend, the site engineering coordinator for Procter & Gamble, said there are no current plans for what exactly would be built in the rezoned area, but the company is interested in acquiring the land. The company already has a facility in operation next to the old college campus and hopes to close in on buying the land in February.

There were around 15 attendees at the commission meeting, with about five who spoke during public comment. Speakers asked the commission not to approve the rezoning, citing concerns about the pollution that could be released by an industrial building.

Tracy Daby, a community member who lives near the Kirkwood campus, said there have already been strong odors of chemicals like acetone in the area where she lives. She said the smell originated from the Oral B Laboratories that are next to the campus.

Daby said these potent smells — which were especially bad for several weeks last summer — have impacted her and her family’s daily lives and caused them to have difficulty breathing outdoors along with headaches.

Several other residents echoed this concern as well as the concern for other kinds of pollution that could be put off by a new industrial development, such as noise and light pollution.

Townsend, the representative from Procter & Gamble, said while there are no plans outlined for this land yet, their existing facilities in the area manufacture parts for toothbrushes and other oral care items. He said these items do not use chemicals in the manufacturing process.

After hearing the comments from the public, the Planning and Zoning Commission ultimately decided in a 7-0 vote to further the rezoning process.

Susan Craig, the vice-chair of the commission, said she is empathetic to the concerns of residents, but the topic of air quality was not what was up for discussion that night. She said the rezoning makes sense because there are already industrial areas surrounding the land.

Commissioner Scott Quellhorst echoed this sentiment and added the commissioners are not experts in environmental science and thus should not base their decision on that.

“I have concerns about myself and the commission trying to make very complex scientific decisions that we’re not really qualified to make,” Quellhorst said. “Ultimately, the question before us is a pretty simple one which is whether this particular slice of property is suited for industrial use.”

Now that this item has been passed by the commission, it will go to the city council for councilors to vote on at three consecutive meetings before it can be passed. The first of these votes is expected to happen at the council’s Feb. 20 meeting, where the public will have an opportunity to voice their opinions.

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About the Contributor
Isabelle Foland
Isabelle Foland, News Editor
Isabelle Foland is a second-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication and minoring in Spanish. She is a second-year news reporter at The Daily Iowan, reporting mainly on Iowa City City Council. She is from Missouri Valley, Iowa and has reported for her hometown paper prior to her time at The DI.