CEDAR FALLS — Two state lawmakers of different parties are each helping neighbors opposed to locating a convenience store in their southern Cedar Falls neighborhood.
Sen. Jeff Danielson and Rep. Walt Rogers are supporting neighbors, led by El Dorado Heights resident Penny Popp, in their opposition to a proposed Kwik Star near the intersection of South Main Street and Greenhill Road.
Danielson, a Democrat who is a Cedar Falls firefighter and a former union president, said he would help neighbors seek an Iowa Attorney General’s opinion regarding “ex parte” communications between citizens and elected officials on development projects.
“I think it’s wrong that council persons are being told by the lawyers and bureaucrats they can’t talk with citizens about issues,” Danielson said. “If the AG opinion finds Cedar Falls is interpreting present law correctly, I will work to change to the law. We live in a democracy, and citizens should be able to communicate with their elected representatives, not just the bureaucrats and lawyers.”
Rogers signed a petition opposing to the project.
“I signed the petition because I’m in the neighborhood,” Rogers said. He’s concerned about traffic at South Main and Greenhill near his home. He added, “There’s a Casey’s (General Store) down the road” on Greenhill. “I don’t think it’s needed.”
He’s consulting his staff about ex parte communications. “They seem to use that reasoning a lot in Cedar Falls,” he said.
Council members last week agreed to reconsider a 4-3 vote Feb. 19 to reject a site plan for the Kwik Star while voting 6-1 in favor of an adjacent Fareway grocery store. Both were permitted uses under the area’s zoning designation.
Subsequently, two council members who voted against Kwik Star, Dave Wieland and Rob Green, asked for reconsideration. Wieland said he wanted more information from Kwik Star about addressing neighbors’ concerns. City officials have said the matter could be up for a revote as soon as April 2.
Popp tried to approach council members individually prior to the vote to reconsider but was told by city legal counsel a 10-year-old city policy cautions council members against ex parte communications on individual development projects since they are functioning in a “quasi-judicial” capacity.
In her request for an attorney general’s opinion, Popp said the city did not enforce the guidelines on Kwik Star until after the matter was placed on the March 5 council agenda. Popp has requested city officials provide all written communications on the project.