WATERLOO — Plans for new homes around Orange Elementary School have won an endorsement from city zoning officials to the dismay of neighbors.

Orange Township residents packed the Waterloo Planning, Programming and Zoning Commission on Tuesday with concerns and opposition to the proposed Paradise Estates Addition.

Property owner Hope Martin “Buzz” Anderson is attempting to rezone 129 acres of farm land northeast of the intersection of Orange Road and Kimball Avenue to create an estimated 180 residential lots with a few lots for offices and 10 acres of commercial use along Highway 21 to the east.

Planning commissioners voted instead to unanimously endorse rezoning all of the land for residential use, meaning any offices or commercial projects would need to return for site plan approval in the future.

The zoning change now heads to the City Council for a final decision in about three weeks.

Residents in the close-knit neighborhood near the property spent nearly an hour speaking out against the request.

Some were adamantly opposed to any development on the property. Others were concerned about the size of lots, the impact on already low water pressure in the area, additional traffic near the school, whether the school could handle more students and the prospect of any commercial development near their homes.

“The community has many concerns, and I hope you’ll take them to heart,” said neighbor Diane Sittig.

“We’re proud of our neighborhood,” added resident Barbara Henning. “It’s probably inevitable that something’s going to happen. But I would like to see, if we are going to rezone it, that it all be (residential).”

Monique Walters, whose family lives and farms across Kimball Avenue from the site, wasn’t happy with the plans.

“When I look out my front window I see agriculture,” she said. “We don’t need the city coming to Orange Township.”

Waterloo Water Works officials acknowledged the area suffers from low water pressue, which may require homeowners to install booster pumps. The estimated $3 million fix, which includes another water tower in the area, is currently not in the utility’s 10-year plan.

“I don’t really feel comfortable putting anything else out there until the water people can address the issues that are already there,” said zoning commissioner Marcia Buttgen.

But Community Planning and Development Director Noel Anderson said the issue before the commission this week was whether to rezone the land and for what types of use. Issues about lot sizes, street connections, water and other utilities would be part of a future platting process.

The city’s traffic engineer is asking the developer to complete a traffic study prior to the plat being submitted.

Zoning commissioners Sue Flynn and Craig Holdiman, a current and former school board member respectively, both noted Orange Elementary School was designed to handle residential growth.

“If the city’s going to grow we’re going to have to — one way or another — find places to build the homes and house the people that want to live here,” Holdiman said.

Flynn said the school has 496 students now but was built to handle 650 students.

Neither Buzz Anderson nor any of his representatives attended the meeting to answer questions posed by commissioners and neighbors. City staff said they believe Anderson is planning to build his own home on a 10-acre site on the northwest corner of the development.

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