By Jim Magdefrau
VINTON – Benton Development Group (BDG) officials presented results of a survey of landowners along Highway 30, at the Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, meeting of the Benton County Board of Supervisors at the courthouse in Vinton.
The group has been working to have the county look T its land use policy, which has an emphasis on preserving farm land. BDG would like to see the opportunities for development of farmland along Highway 30.
Kate Robertson, BDG director, explained the findings, and stressed the survey was not meant to create controversy. “We’re basically trying to gauge the opinion of people that have potential land that they would like to be developed,” Robertson said.
Key points were that 42 percent said they’d be interesting in selling their land for something other than agriculture. She also noted that not a lot of people were aware of the land use policy in its entirety.
BDG Chairman Marlyn Jorgensen pointed to a graph of the percentage of people who didn’t think the policy was development friendly. People are looking for a way to lower the tax burden by having more industry and development, Jorgensen said.
Robertson said that as of right now, there is nothing along Highway 30 that is available for development. She sees the area along Highway 30 as an opportunity to see growth in the county, which can bring more property taxes into the county. “It’s an opportunity for us to have growth with the expansion of the four-lane,” she said.
Supervisor Chairman Richard Primmer observed the survey shows people think the land use policy is fine as it is, while an equal number feels the county shouldn’t keep landowners from using their land for whatever purpose they want. “It’s kind of a divided situation for your survey,” Primmer told Robertson.
Primmer added it makes sense that people want to set up business where they is traffic.
Robertson said she wants the board to consider growth on Highway 30, using a new gas station as an example. There is a 56-mile stretch now between Cedar Rapids and Tama without a gas station. Otherwise the county is missing out on an opportunity.
Supervisor Tracy Seeman said there are only two businesses now on Highway 30, which are Hope’s and Van Horn Ford. Morton’s is leaving and going to Tipton he said. He said the storage units don’t bring money into the county. Primmer countered that storage units do bring a lot of money into the county through the local option sales and service tax (LOSST). Seeman continued that there is also a tiling business along Highway 30.
Primmer continued about how the county benefits from the LOSST funds, especially money for fire departments and secondary roads. “It’s revenue we need, and to turn a blind eye to it is ridiculous.” He added, “It’s just an attitude that Benton County has had that we are closed for business. We need to change the attitude.” He added, “We need to give our property owners the opportunity.” He concluded, “We need to see the big picture.”
No action was taken.
Courtroom audio and video
Clerk of Court Julie Hessenius met with the board regarding a courtroom conferencing system. The new system will help the court deal with pandemic issues. It has a sound system, cameras for video conferencing, and it can put exhibits on a screen rather then handing papers out. It will also allow people to see the court without having to be in the courthouse on high profile cases. The state is paying for the system. The cost to the county is minimal, with the expenses being more outlets or cables. A letter of agreement was signed by the board.
In action with the sheriff’s office, the board approved moving Cathy Clouse from part-time to full-time status sheriff’s office kitchen worker. They approved having the sheriff look for a Foundation 2 Access point vehicle to provide rides to people to shelters and housing. It will also be used for ongoing casework. The board also approved the sale of rescue equipment to the Blairstown Fire Department. Blairstown currently does not have rescue equipment, and the county rarely uses its rescue equipment. They also approved using the county’s rescue truck for mass casualty event storage with Emergency Management.
Ben Bonar presented the weed commissioner’s report. He said things are improving, but they are dealing with the same weeds every year. Canada thistle continued to be the biggest weed drawing complaints, with a few complaints about cocklebur and musk thistle. Forty-two weed complaints were submitted this year. In the past it was 23. The report was approved and was sent to the Iowa Department of Agriculture. They also discussed dealing with weeds on state property.
The board heard a request for a ground penetrating radar survey for the Benton County Pioneer Cemetery Commission, for Stringtown Cemetery. This concerns an old cemetery that could be affected when the county widens the right of way near the cemetery. Engineer Myron Parizek felt this could be a secondary roads expense for the radar, and to get the area surveyed for graves. Fencing would be outside of secondary roads. They are also looking for who is buried in the cemetery.
The board accepted bids from the Iowa Department of Transportation for replacing a bridge on Wolf Creek on V-37, by Taylor Construction. This is in Bruce Township.
The supervisors approved the hiring of Joseph Wehage for Benton County Transportation.