Tensions run high at open house over proposed Cargill rail yard

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Tensions are still running high between a group of Cedar Rapids neighbors and one of the largest companies in the world.

The disagreement is over a proposed rail yard where Cargill would store rail cars for its nearby corn milling plant.

The manufacturing company wants to build the rail yard in the Prairie Park neighborhood in southeast Cedar Rapids, saying it would serve as a parking area for up to 200 freight cars. But Cargill claims cars would be traveling to and from the yard only a few times a day.

Cargill hosted an open house Monday in Cedar Rapids for neighbors to ask questions about the project and voice their concerns. The company said Monday’s event was the third time it has held a public forum like that.

But some neighbors said they only recently found out about the project, while others said their concerns include that the rail yard would be too noisy and disruptive, that it will bring down their property value, and that it will ruin the nature areas of their neighborhood.

Cargill said it will address those worries in its plans for the project, and it brought about a dozen employees, along with the people who performed the studies for its plans, to the open house to speak directly with neighbors.

About 40 neighbors showed up to listen, take notes, and at times, raise their voices in frustration over the project.

But Cargill said it has listened to those concerns and taken them into consideration when choosing the final location for the rail yard.

“This project is super important really to Cargill's viability in the future,” Cedar Rapids Plant Manager Dan Pulis said. “So we believe this location that we've chosen really gives the least amount of impact to the neighborhood as well as the environment."

However, some members of the Prairie Park community said they still feel ignored.

"We want to help them, but not at the cost of just forcing this onto the community without having any dialogue with us whatsoever, which is what's happened consistently to date,” Kerry Sanders said.

Cargill will next present these plans to the Cedar Rapids City Planning Commission on Thursday.

After that, the proposal will go before city council.

Sanders said some members of the Prairie Park Community have already submitted a request to the city planning commission to reject those plans.