32 single-family homes proposed for former Edison School site | New policies

WATERLOO — A Cedar Falls developer is proposing to build dozens of single-family homes on the site of the former Edison Elementary School, though some neighbors are still wary of lot sizes, high cost of homes and water issues potentials.

Kevin Fittro of Panther Builders, which has several developments in the area such as Prairie West and Twin Oaks in Cedar Falls, Eagle Reach in Waverly, and West Echo in Jesup, plans to build 32 single-family homes along the west side of Magnolia Parkway, north of Falls Avenue, south of Bismark Avenue, and east east of an alley near Evergreen Avenue in Waterloo.

Fittro is proposing to set aside 2.2 acres on the northeast portion of the seven-acre parcel for parkland in Magnolia and Bismark, which will be funded by the city at an estimated cost of $350,000.

A portion south along Falls Avenue will be set aside for future commercial development, consistent with how the city originally zoned the site in 2019. The developer also plans to leave four large oak trees in place, according to the city.

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“The 32 lots of single-family homes will retain the character and size of existing residential properties in the area, (which) are primarily comprised of one-story and one-and-a-half-story homes,” city staff wrote in their recommendation. .

Fittro’s proposal went through a Tuesday morning meeting of the Waterloo Leisure Services Commission. But it encountered some opposition from neighbors at a Tuesday night meeting of Waterloo planning, programming and zoning before that council recommended 4-1-1 approval, commissioners Sue Flynn voting no and Ali Parrish abstaining. The city council should take it up in February.

Fittro said he expected homes to sell for between $220,000 and $290,000, “not a price at all in this neighborhood,” said neighbor Jay Hileman, who lives on Evergreen Avenue and has noted that homes there are rated for at least half.

Hileman noted that he’s also concerned that not adding curbs and gutters could cause water issues on his property, which others have also expressed concerns about, including councilman Dave Boesen.

“The new roads won’t have curbs and gutters – that seems to be a problem,” Boesen said.

City Engineer Jamie Knutson said he didn’t think there was much to do, as the surrounding area has no stormwater retention.

“Any flooding now will still be there” after a development begins, Knutson said. “If the commission wants to put that caveat out there, that’s certainly up to them.”

Janet Collins, who lives in Magnolia, said the 40ft pitches – which her property also sits on – are “not big enough”, which resident Forrest Dillavou agreed with.

“Yes, there are 40ft pitches all around Waterloo, but aren’t we looking to improve?” said Dillavou.

Fittro noted that Panther Builders was also “concerned about stormwater retention,” but noted that the lot number made the most economical sense and matched the surrounding neighborhood.

“They already have these lot sizes. The number of units per acre is no different,” he said. “It made sense for us to leave them as they are.”

It’s the first proposal to come before the city since strong neighborhood opposition derailed a $1 million housing and park plan by Jon Brundrett of 5 Bees LLC.

Brundrett planned to pay for a handicap-accessible park and donate it to the city after 10 years, but that was contingent on approval of Magnolia Place, a proposed 10 four-plex townhouse complex on the site. Although the project survived a zoning board vote, Brundrett pulled the development in August before the city council voted on it after dozens of neighbors signed a petition opposing it.

Waterloo is considering its own handicap-accessible park, but Edison's neighbors oppose 4-plexes

Neighbors told the city at the time that they only wanted single-family homes, and Edison Neighborhood Association President Rachel Neil reminded fellow residents of that at Tuesday’s meeting.

“There were certain things that the neighborhood strongly communicated that they wanted and desired for this land, and so far everything we see here responds to that,” Neil said, noting that the proposed park was also bigger than the neighbors expected.

Neighbors told the city in December that their priorities for a park include a mulch-covered playground, a swing set, a small shelter, six picnic tables, five park benches, a basketball court half lot, electricity and water service, a 5-foot walking trail and a bike rack.

With a new developer on board, Edison's neighborhood is set to reclaim the park

The Waterloo Community School District closed Edison in 2011 after 97 years of operation, and it was demolished in 2016.

Eagle Island, the wooden playground built on the site in 1994, was demolished by the district in May 2015 for safety reasons. The land was then ceded to the City of Waterloo.

With the loss of Edison School and Eagle Island, neighbors ask Waterloo for a new park

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