Siding with the city

Issue resolved?

T-R PHOTO BY MIKE DONAHEY 
Marshalltown City Development Committee board members Robert Duke, left, and Richard Hierstein listen to discussion during Wednesday’s review of a request by property owners to sever their property from the city of Marshalltown. The meeting was held at the Iowa Economic Development Authority in Des Moines.

T-R PHOTO BY MIKE DONAHEY Marshalltown City Development Committee board members Robert Duke, left, and Richard Hierstein listen to discussion during Wednesday’s review of a request by property owners to sever their property from the city of Marshalltown. The meeting was held at the Iowa Economic Development Authority in Des Moines.

On Wednesday, the state of Iowa City Development Board in Des Moines voted 5-2 to deny two property owners application to sever their properties from the city of Marshalltown.

Monte Eaton and Leisha Eaton, and James Gruening and Susan Gruening, had petitioned through their attorney Mike Marquess, their properties be severed.

The Eatons and Gruenings core argument was they were paying taxes to the city, but were not receiving city services, a claim the city denied.

After nearly one hour of discussion, the CDB ruled in a specific motion “the request was not in the public interest.”

Had Wednesday’s ruling been in the property owners favor, the next step would have had Marshalltown voters weighing in on the matter in a special election.

“We are disappointed the voters of Marshalltown were denied the opportunity to decide this issue,” said Marquess. “We thought it was an important issue for the electorate, to be heard on. I strongly disagree it is not in the public’s interest to make a decision like this … about the limits of their city. We also continue to believe it is extremely inequitable for the city to assess what they do, and provide what they do not.”

Marquess said he and the Eatons, Gruenings had not yet decided to appeal, or not appeal Wednesday’s ruling.

“I was pleased with the decision today by the state’s City Development Board,” said Mayor Jim Lowrance who witnessed proceedings. “I believed from the beginning the city was correct on this matter, and today the CDB discussed it thoroughly. In its 5-2 decision, they approved a motion ruling the request for severance from the city was not in the public interest … in the interest of the citizens of Marshalltown.”

Perhaps central the CDB’s decision was evidence and testimony presented before them by both sides of the issue Oct. 4 — a nearly six-hour hearing held in Marshalltown city council chambers.

Wednesday’s CDB decision may, or may not end a nearly 11-month debate between the property owners and the city.

How it started

The issue started in December last year, when the Eatons, Gruenings, and Gregory Jacobs and Linda Jacobs, who live in the southernmost portion of city limits south of Marshalltown Community College, asked the council to sever their properties,

The council rejected their application by 3-2 vote. Voting to deny severance were Third Ward Councilor MIke Gowdy, Second Ward Councilor Joel Greer, and Councilor-At-Large Bethany Wirin.

The late First Ward Councilor Bob Schubert and Fourth Ward Councilor Al Hoop voted to approve.

Creating additional drama to the one vote margin was the absence of At-Large councilors Leon Lamer and Bill Martin.

A Jan. 9 vote to reconsider was a 3-3 tie, resulting in the measure failing. The property owners picked up an additional ” yes” vote in Lamer. However, Councilor-At-Large Bill Martin was absent.

CDB members

Members are Chairperson Dennis Plautz, Fort Dodge; Barbara Brown, Cedar Falls; Jay Howe, Greenfield; Sarah Beatty, Sigourney; Richard Hierstein, Marshalltown City Appointee; Robert Duke, Marshall County Appointee; and Committee Vice Chair James Halvorson, Cedar Rapids. Voting to deny were Plautz, Brown, Beatty, Hierstein and Halvorson. Voting to permit severance were Duke and Howe.

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Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or mdonahey@timesrepublican.com