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

IC City Council approves industrial rezoning of former Kirkwood campus

This decision comes after weeks of southside residents voicing air quality concerns regarding existing and potential industrial sites in the area.
Ethan McLaughlin
Iowa City Council members listen to a statement from a community member during an Iowa City Council meeting on Tuesday, March 19, 2024.

The old Kirkwood Community College campus will now be home to industrial development after the Iowa City City Council’s vote Tuesday night.

The city council approved rezoning the former college’s land in a 6-1 vote, with Mayor Pro Tem Mazahir Salih voting against the proposal. This rezoning previously passed through the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission in a 7-0 vote. 

The city council voted on this change at its last two meetings, and each vote has been met with pushback from community members who live near the former college campus. Last year, Kirkwood announced it would be selling its Iowa City campus, located on Lower Muscatine Road, and relocating to Coralville.

Southside residents have expressed fears that a new industrial development on the land would add to existing air quality and pollution concerns in the area. In the meetings where this rezoning has been discussed, several residents attested to experiencing headaches, dizziness, and other negative symptoms which they believe stem from the industrial developments in the area.

Anne Marie Kraus is a resident of the area who has been present at the various city council and planning and zoning meetings where this rezoning has been discussed. Kraus spoke against the rezoning due to the reported chemical-like smells in the area and negative health effects of these odors.

“The council is charged with making the zoning decision based on two criteria: consistence with the comprehensive plan and compatibility with the existing neighborhood,” Kraus said. “And I ask you, what hazardous waste generator is compatible with any neighborhood in town?”

The group that requested the rezoning is Procter & Gamble, which is a manufacturing company. Currently, Procter & Gamble operates a Oral B manufacturing plant right next door to the former Kirkwood campus.

Joe Townsend, a representative for Procter & Gamble, said at past meetings there are currently no plans for what will be built on the former campus, but the company wants to rezone the land to potentially expand its Oral B building. 

At the March 19 city council meeting, Townsend said Procter & Gamble bought the Kirkwood campus on Feb. 28. The company plans to make the former campus green space until its official plans for development on the site are finalized, Townsend said.

Procter & Gamble has been present in Iowa City for nearly 70 years and currently employs over 1,200 community members, Townsend said.

“[Procter & Gamble] has been a member of the Iowa City community since 1956. During that time, we have strived to be a good and responsible neighbor, and that commitment continues,” Townsend said. “That includes continuing to be a good steward of the community and environment.”

In response to community concerns, several councilors said they would be interested in investigating any existing air quality concerns in the area, but the actual rezoning itself would not do anything to impact those concerns since nothing is being built with this action.

At the city council’s April 2 meeting, Councilor Andrew Dunn said this rezoning makes sense because of the fact that the Kirkwood campus is surrounded by industrial zones. In addition to the Oral B facility next to the former campus, there is also a MidAmerican Energy facility to the northwest.

“No matter how you look at it, it’s the same every way around that property. It’s pre-existing infrastructure, the facilities are pre-existing,” Dunn said. “So fundamentally, I don’t see it as changing the character of the neighborhood.”

At the prior two city council meetings where the rezoning was voted on, Salih has been the lone dissenter on the item. At the April 2 meeting, Salih said the air quality fears residents expressed also gave her concern, and she does not want to see more industries in the southside.

“If it’s up to me and if I [had] the power right now, I would move Oral B, I would move Procter & Gamble from there and put it toward the end of the city,” Salih said. “Since I don’t have that power, why increase industrial area in that area?”

At Tuesday night’s meeting, Tracy Daby, another resident in the southside, expressed her frustration with the council for passing this rezoning.

“Rezoning public land for this on Lower Muscatine to accommodate Procter & Gamble’s expansion at the expense of public health and counter to significant opposition is reckless, disgraceful, and not aligned with your campaign promises nor aligned with your basic obligation as civil servants,” Daby said.

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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.