WATERLOO — Two former mayors threw their support behind the hotly debated Paradise Estates housing addition Monday night.
Waterloo City Council members voted 6-0 to approve a preliminary plat for the 209-lot residential project Hope Martin “Buzz” Anderson is working to develop around Orange Elementary School.
A number of existing Orange neighborhood homeowners continued to voice concerns about the development, which they believe could exacerbate existing traffic problems and create safety issues around the school.
Former mayors John Rooff and Tim Hurley joined a group of others at the hearing who urged the council to keep the development on track.
“We absolutely need the homes,” Rooff said. “Those concerns need to be addressed, but it doesn’t mean we stop the development.”
Hurley said he believed 209 housing lots were more than the number of lots created during his two years on the council and six years as mayor, from 2004 to 2010.
“It’s what you’ve talked about and struggled with for years and months,” Hurley said. “We need housing. We’re trying to attract all kinds of people and they’re going to come for other reasons, and they’re going to want that kind of housing near a school of that quality.”
Current Mayor Quentin Hart also joined in support, saying the Waterloo Community School District has taken steps based on the concerns raised by neighbors to improve student drop-off and pick-up protocols.
Councilman Steve Schmitt voted for the preliminary plat despite saying the parking issue should be resolved first.
“It just seems like there’s not enough parking there,” Schmitt said. “If you’ve been out there in the morning or the evening, there are cars parked all over that neighborhood just because they have no place else to park.
“Those parked cars is where some little kid is going to come running out and get killed,” he added.
Ryan Wicks, a consultant for the developer, said his firm has met with the school and city officials about the traffic issue. The detailed final plat incorporating safety improvements will be engineered based on traffic studies.
“No final design has been done for any of this; this is all conceptual,” Wicks said. “This is a preliminary plat to show you what the developer intends to do, to get approval from the city so we can go into final design.”
The final plat must return for council approval before any construction can begin.
While traffic safety was the primary concern, several residents said they did not like the names associated with the housing addition.
Mary Margaret Halverson suggested the “corny” street names could hurt interest in the project and urged Anderson to reconsider them.
“I am concerned whether the name Paradise Estates and roads like Mermaid Cove or Paradise Boulevard, Rhapsody Lane, Elvis Parkway, Dynasty Drive … are going to be negatives,” Halverson said.
Councilman Bruce Jacobs abstained from voting on the plat citing a “potential conflict of interest.”