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

Southside residents fearful of industrial development in old IC Kirkwood campus

The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission approved the repurposing of the old college land into an industrial zone for Procter & Gamble on Jan. 17.
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Matt Sindt
The Iowa City Kirkwood campus is seen on Feb. 17, 2023.

When Anne Marie Kraus, a southside Iowa City resident, is out in her garden tending to her plants, she said she is often bombarded with many scents. These scents are not the pleasant aromas of peonies or fresh-grown vegetables, though.

Instead, Kraus said these scents are potent, headache-inducing odors put off by nearby industrial buildings. These kinds of odors have become somewhat of a norm in the neighborhood, according to residents.

These smells are so strong Kraus said she can tell the exact brand and product that is putting off the odor.

“You can tell today is Gain detergent, and then the next time is the shampoo, and now it’s Febreze,” Kraus said.

Kraus along with over a dozen community members came to the city’s Jan. 17 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting to voice their opposition to the industrial rezoning of the old campus. Many residents were specifically concerned about the effects an industrial building could have on the area’s air quality.

These community members fear these scents may be amplified by a potential industrial development in the old Kirkwood campus, which is located near several residential zones in the southside area. At the meeting, manufacturing company Procter & Gamble said they are planning to purchase the old campus by February.

Also at the meeting was Tracy Daby, who said she gathered almost 30 signatures from community members against the rezoning before the meeting. She said she was angered by the result and even lost sleep while trying to write the statement she read to the commission.

The size of the land that was rezoned for industrial use is about seven acres, according to the commission’s meeting agenda. Directly next to the old college campus is an Oral B manufacturing building, which is a Procter & Gamble company.

At the meeting, Procter & Gamble representative Joe Townsend said there are no current plans for what will be built on the land, but assured residents that if the manufacturing company were to expand its Oral B plant into the area, it would not create air quality issues.

In an email statement to The Daily Iowan, Patrick Blair, senior director of communications for Procter & Gamble, wrote the company has been in Iowa City for over six decades and is dedicated to doing good for the community.

“For generations, we’ve served consumers from our facilities in Iowa City, supported our employees, and helped the community – fundamental to our company’s purpose,” Blair wrote. “We look forward to continuing this commitment as good neighbors for years to come.”

At the meeting, planning and zoning commissioners said they are sympathetic to the concerns of nearby residents, but the decision for them to vote on was not about air quality but whether it would make sense for the old campus to become an industrial area.

Surrounding the Kirkwood campus on the northwest and southeast are several industrial zones, which is why commissioners said the proposal made sense to them.

One potential compromise brought up by a handful of residents at the Jan. 17 meeting was a conditional rezoning. Anne Russett, the city’s senior planner, said conditional rezoning occurs when city staff recognizes there is some sort of public need that should be filled for the rezoning to occur.

Russett said conditional rezonings are not uncommon for the city. An example of a conditional rezoning could be the city telling a developer they need to add a trail to a park for an area to be rezoned, she said.

City staff did not see a need for any conditions to be added to this rezoning proposal, but the city council could ask for conditions to be tacked on if it sees fit, she said. The city council will first examine this rezoning item at its Feb. 20 meeting.

Russett said if there were ever any nuisance complaints from residents that stemmed from a future Procter & Gamble development on the land, these complaints could be directed to city staff, and they would investigate it.

Chemical manufacturing is a specified allowed use for the newly rezoned campus, but developers are not allowed to construct manufacturers of fertilizers, explosives, oil refining or other similar uses, Russett said.

Tracy Daby, one of the concerned residents, said she may come to the Feb. 20 city council meeting to voice her concerns once again. She said she hopes the city considers the needs of its southside residents, many of whom have had their quality of life impacted by the odors put off by current industrial buildings.

“I’m very disappointed. I’m angry, actually,” Daby said. “It’s my livelihood. I live right behind it.”

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About the Contributor
Isabelle Foland, News Editor
(she/her)
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.