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New Cedar Falls Hampton Inn approved by P&Z, will head to council

CEDAR FALLS — A six-story hotel proposed at the northwest corner of West First and Main streets won the blessing of the city’s zoning board Tuesday night.

It heads to the City Council for final approval.

The 82,000-square-foot, 127-room Hampton Inn, developed by Hawkeye Hotels, was approved by the Cedar Falls Planning and Zoning Commission. Brad Leeper cast the lone “no” vote.

The hotel would occupy the site of the former Broom Factory restaurant, now demolished, and the former Cedar Falls Chamber of Commerce building.

The design was revamped slightly after comments at the previous meeting determined it wasn’t quite compatible with the look of downtown. The new design will be approximately 80 percent brick, with contrasting colors, and around 10 percent stone, including keystone features that exist in present downtown buildings.

“We were able to brainstorm what kind of elements we could add to the design,” said Om Patel, the director of development for Hawkeye Hotels. “We hope that what you see today is what you’re looking for.”

The commissioners agreed it was.

“I think you did a nice job of adding the keystone,” said LeaAnn Saul.

“It does look like it blends into our neighborhood pretty good with these changes,” said Brian Arntson. “We thank you.”

Mark Kittrell, developer of the nearby River Place, said he “couldn’t be more pleased” with the plan.

“The comments we are hearing from downtown are very excited — they think it’s going to have a great impact on downtown,” he said.

Carol Lilly, executive director at Community Main Street in Cedar Falls, said her only concern was the increased foot traffic on West First Street.

“We do hope the safety of the intersection at First Street is discussed with the DOT for a safe crossing for guests,” she said.

In other business, the commission approved the relocation of the Cedar Falls Community Main Street offices to the northeast end of East Fourth Street at the entrance of the water reclamation plant, inside the River Place development.

The matter was approved, with Mardy Holst abstaining.

Tax credits help breathe new life into historic Walnut homes

WATERLOO — A local developer has started restoring the historic “Judge Platt” home even as a key financing element is under attack in the Statehouse.

The 124-year-old Victorian at 515 E. Third St. is one of four historically significant houses JSA Development is planning to renovate through a partnership with the city and Walnut Neighborhood.

While JSA is counting on state historic preservation tax credits to help offset the cost of those extensive repairs, a bill that passed the Iowa Senate Wednesday would slash $10 million in funding for the program next year and eliminate it entirely by 2025.

JSA’s David Deeds said the tax credits are critical to ensuring historic renovations are viable, not only for the Walnut houses but for numerous other projects in Waterloo and across the state.

“They’re not feasible without the tax credits,” Deeds said. “The tax credits help close that financing gap.”

Contractors already have begun working on the Platt house and are hoping to start next door at 519 E. Third St., the Herbert Reed family home also built in 1894.

Both houses were slated to be torn down in 2014 when Councilman Pat Morrissey and members of the Waterloo Historic Preservation Commission lobbied to save them, fearing the loss of any more significant structures would doom efforts to create a historic district in the Walnut Neighborhood.

JSA Development, led by Jim Walsh, stepped forward with plans to restore four houses, including two others on Pine Street. The company has successfully renovated a number of downtown buildings using historic tax credits.

Even with the federal and state tax credits, Deeds said, the two restorations on East Third Street are “marginally” feasible.

“We’re doing it for what we believe to be good for the community,” he said. “You’re going to see these houses from Lincoln Park, from downtown. They’re going to make a statement about what’s happening in this neighborhood as a whole.”

The house at 515 E. Third, was build by Franklin C. Platt, who lived there until his death in 1924. Platt, who moved to Waterloo in 1883, was elected to a judgeship in 1910 and served as member of the Waterloo City Council, where he advocated switching to a city manager form of government.

Herbert Reed, who build the home next door, was a “broker in foodstuffs” who brought products grown and made in other parts of the country to Waterloo while shipping out items produced here. He was instrumental in starting the Waterloo Club for Businesses that later reorganized as the Chamber of Commerce.

Both houses are being renovated into duplexes initially, but Deeds said he hopes they can be returned to single-family homes in the future when neighborhood conditions improve.

City Council members voted unanimously Monday to pass a resolution encouraging state lawmakers not to cut the historic tax credit program.

The resolution noted the current state funding level already leaves many potential projects on the drawing board. Developers sought $56 million in credits last fall when just $19 million was available.

Dees noted every $1 of tax credit leverages $3.20 of private investment, while historic renovation jobs require more skilled labor, creating more jobs and better wages.

“We have a lot of underutilized buildings and houses across the city of Waterloo,” Deed said.

Historic tax credits “help revitalize the areas that already have streets, that already have sewers, that already have police patrolling them, that are already being plowed,” he said. “They’re not adding to the burden on our taxpayers because the infrastructure is already there.”

Senate passes “heartbeat” abortion ban


DES MOINES — Lawmakers in the Iowa Senate approved a bill that would ban most abortions at the first detectable fetal heartbeat.

The Republican-controlled chamber voted 30-20 Wednesday along party lines in support of the so-called heartbeat bill. The chamber’s lone independent, Sen. David Johnson, also voted for the legislation.

A heartbeat can be detected as early as 6 weeks of pregnancy. The legislation would only allow abortions at a later period to save a pregnant woman’s life. A violation would be a Class D felony carrying a five-year prison term and a fine of $750 to $7,500. There would be no penalty for the woman.

Leaders in the GOP-majority House haven’t said publicly if they will support the bill. Republicans hold a 59-41 majority in that chamber. GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds also hasn’t given a definitive answer on the legislation.

If the measure becomes law, it likely faces litigation by opponents who argue it violates U.S. Supreme Court rulings that affirm women have a legal right to abortion. Many supporters see it as a first step toward overturning the 1973 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

“This bill is the logical beginning point for all of civil governance,” said Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, floor manager. She said it strikes “at the very heart and soul of what it means to be an American, what it means to be a person.”

Senate Democrats opposed the measure, calling it unconstitutional and another “assault” on women. The state was forced to pay a $1.75 million sexual harassment settlement to a former female staffer of the Senate’s Republican caucus last year.

“This bill is dangerous. This bill is unconstitutional. This bill devalues Iowa women,” said Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen, a Des Moines Democrat. Petersen claimed prison inmates, livestock and corpses have more medical rights than Iowa women and girls under the bill.

Sinclair responded to the bill’s critics by telling Democrats, “please, this is not a war on women and, in fact, roughly 50 percent of the people we are electing to protect here are indeed women, so in fact a failure to pass this bill would be the true war on women in its most pure sense.”

Bob Vander Plaats, president and chief executive officer of The Family Leader, said if the bill becomes law, “Iowa would be the first state to recognize what science already affirms: a baby in the womb has her own unique DNA, her own unique heartbeat, is her own unique person. She’s a baby and she deserves to have her birthday.”

Erin Davison-Rippey, public affairs director for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa, called Wednesday’s vote “unpopular, unconstitutional, and unconscionable.”

“Plain and simple, Iowa women do not want to be dragged back to 1972, and taxpayers do not want to pay the cost of a lengthy, divisive legal battle to challenge Roe — especially when seven in 10 Americans agree that abortion should remain safe and legal,” she added.

Independence MHI patient accused of attempting to kill another patient

INDEPENDENCE — A patient at the Independence Mental Health Institute with a history of threatening U.S. presidents has been charged with attempting to smother a fellow patient and threatening to kill a staff member.

The incidents happened months apart, and Buchanan County sheriff’s deputies Friday arrested Terrance David Rooney Jr., 44, for attempted murder, first-degree harassment and assault on a health care worker.

Rooney remains at the county jail with bond set at $500,000 cash only.

According to court records, Rooney was at the MHI facility Nov. 18 when he tried to suffocate another patient with a pillow. Rooney had made comments about killing the man several days before and had planned the attack, waiting for him to be in his room asleep while no staff was around, records state.

Then on Feb. 13, Rooney allegedly grabbed the thumb of a staff member who was trying to restrain him. He twisted the thumb and told the worker he was going to kill her, records state. The employee suffered a sprained thumb and was unable to work.

This isn’t the first time Rooney has been charged with attacking MHI staff. In August 2016, he swung at the head of a female employee and pulled out chunks of her hair. He was arrested for assault on a health care worker and later pleaded guilty.

In the 1998, Rooney was indicted for mailing threats to then-President Bill Clinton. He pleaded guilty and was committed for a mental health condition, records state.

In August 2004, he assaulted a nurse at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, and when authorities there detained him he said he was going to “get a gun and shoot the president,” records state. Secret Service members questioned him about the statement, and he said he remembered hearing voiced that told him to hurt the nurse, but he said he had no memory of threatening the president.

He was committed to a psychiatric ward at Mercy Medical Center in Dubuque, and while there in November 2004 wrote a letter that contained threats against President George W. Bush, past President George H.W. Bush, Gov. Terry Branstad and lawmakers Charles Grassley, Tom Harkin, John Kerry and their families, record state.

Another letter in December 2004 stated Rooney was hearing voices in his head telling him to kill President Bush and the vice president and then to kill himself, court records state. Days later, while in the Dubuque County Jail, Rooney was heard screaming he was going to kill the president and Judge Randall Nigg, who had presided over portions of one of his cases.

He pleaded to two counts of threatening the president in 2006 and was sentenced to 27 months in prison with placement in a federal medical facility.