Cedar Rapids Country Club drops indoor tennis facility, seeks outdoor courts with inflatable dome
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Cedar Rapids Country Club drops indoor tennis facility, seeks outdoor courts with inflatable dome

Jun 25, 2023

Planning Commission splits on proposal, which now goes to City Council

Jun. 8, 2023 5:00 am

CEDAR RAPIDS — The Cedar Rapids Country Club's proposal for a new tennis facility is headed to the City Council, but now it's an outdoor rather than indoor facility.

The City Planning Commission last week split on a 3-3 vote, meaning commissioners recommend denying the rezoning needed for the facility, 520 27th St. Dr. SE.

The Country Club is seeking to amend the rezoning approved last year for an indoor facility because the club has decided it was not feasible to build a permanent building at this time.

It also is looking for permission to use a temporary, inflatable "bubble" to be used seasonally, similar to the ones used at Elmcrest Country Club and in cities such as Minneapolis and Chicago, Country Club General Manager Tom Feller said.

"We were hoping (the cost would) come in way under what it was, but just with the economy and the price and everything, this was the other option we had," Feller said of the change from a permanent to temporary structure.

The request would not change the zoning for the Country Club, which is now zoned P-IN, or public institutional district. The project had to return to the plan commission because of the change in structure and because the rezoning approved in 2022 came with specific conditions.

Concerns raised last year about the original plans centered on screening and the size of the proposed structure, as well as disruption of the neighborhood's character. Some residents also worried that special events would draw excessive traffic and take up parking space in the neighborhood.

According to the city, the Historic Preservation Commission has requested more research be done to understand the project's impact. The panel's concerns with the amended project are that it expands recreational use into a residential part of the neighborhood and overall has an unknown impact on the neighborhood's historic integrity.

"I feel like the whole neighborhood will be improved with this project," Feller said, adding a tennis facility has been in the works for about 20 years.

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Though the Country Club worked with SaveCR Heritage to spare four historic homes on Fairway Terrace SE from demolition and move them elsewhere, nonprofit board member Cindy Hadish said those efforts were unsuccessful. The homes, for now, are still standing.

City staff recommended rezoning be approved to allow the outdoor courts and temporary structure, allowing site development to proceed. Lighting or outdoor activities on the outdoor courts would require a conditional use permit.

As proposed, the temporary structure would be opaque and not exceed 40 feet in height, or 30 feet above the street. It would be limited to use 180 days, from Oct. 15 to April 30. Use beyond that time would need city approval. Any mechanical equipment would be located away from neighbors, as the structure requires a fan to remain inflated.

Conditions that remain from the previous zoning approval require screening along the west property line and the parking area to minimize light pollution. Motion-based lighting will be used at night.

Feller said more parking spots have been added compared to the original site plans. To address concerns about lighting and hours of operation, he said the facility would shut down and its gates closed by 10 p.m.

Plan Commission Chairman Jim Halverson, who voted to recommend rezoning, said the Country Club is part of what makes the neighborhood historic.

"When people invest in homes, they make a conscious decision, knowing that there is a major facility there and that's going to serve as an influence, not to mention it's a membership organization so they’re going to want to alter and modify their programming to adapt to their members’ expectations," Halverson said.

Commission member Amy Homan was among those who voted against recommending rezoning.

"A permanent building, if it had to be much smaller to fit into your budget, would be a much more palatable and community structure that would fit into the area," Homan said.

Commissioner Kim King also voted against recommending rezoning, saying she struggle with how the panel is "making one country club more marketable than another country club."

TL Thousand, a neighbor who vocally opposed the project last year, remains opposed to the amended proposal. She asked the commission to vote against rezoning because of the project "adversely impacting the quality of life as well as the identity of our neighborhood and affecting our ability to safely enjoy living in Cedar Rapids."

The City Council has set a June 27 public hearing on the project, along with the first reading of the enabling ordinance. If the revision gains council approval, the ordinance's second and possible third consideration could take place July 11.

Last year, four of nine council members had to recuse themselves from voting on the rezoning due to conflicts of interest. The council narrowed ethics rules last year to only bar votes because of financial conflicts.

In doing so, council members clarified language that led the city Board of Ethics to advise that Mayor Tiffany O’Donnell and council member Tyler Olson recuse themselves from the matter because of possible boosts to their reputation as Country Club members.

Council members Ann Poe, a nearby resident, and Marty Hoeger recused themselves for financial conflicts. Poe consulted the city attorney, who advised she recuse herself.

It's unknown if the four council members will recuse themselves again, but O’Donnell said the change in the ethics rules would enable her and Olson to vote this time.

Comments: (319) 398-8494; [email protected]

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