'Field' Complex: If They Build It, Will Crops Still Come?

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Telegraph Herald (Dubuque, IA)
Judge to decide on motions in suits against Dyersville
Alicia Yager TH staff writer [email protected]
A Dubuque District Court judge will decide on a handful of motions in two lawsuits filed against the city of Dyersville, Iowa, including whether to bar the city from granting a new building permit for the proposed Field of Dreams project.

Following a day of testimony and arguments Monday by attorneys for the city and the petitioners, the Residential and Agricultural Advisory Committee, Judge Thomas Bitter said he will take the next week or so to decide on the latest motions in the suits, including a motion to reconsider two previously dismissed counts that sought to throw out the building permit approved by the Dyersville City Council for Go the Distance Baseball.

The two consolidated lawsuits allege the council illegally approved zoning changes and a building permit for Go the Distance Baseball, which plans to expand the Field of Dreams site into a 24-field youth baseball and softball tournament complex called All-Star Ballpark Heaven.

Most of Monday's hearing was used for testimony by four members of the committee, voicing concerns that included a reduction in area farm crop yields because aerial fungicide and pesticide spraying could not be done within 2 miles of such a large commercial site.

"It makes it harder to make ends meet," said Gary Burkle, who farms 320 acres near the proposed site.

Burkle and Jeff Pape, another witness, also talked about the safety concerns of having more traffic on Dyersville East and Lansing roads, when area farmers already have a lot of heavy machinery on roads, as well as the potential impact on the Hewitt Creek Watershed.

Shannon Shaw, a financial expert, weighed in on the projected revenue and costs for operating the proposed All-Star Ballpark Heaven. He said comparing it to similar, more established organizations, such as the Cooperstown Dreams Park in New York and the Ripken Experience in Maryland, the projections do not seem realistic.

"I've never seen a startup company "¦ get to its competitors' (financial) level as quickly as this would," he said.

Attorney Doug Henry, representing the city of Dyersville, noted that many of the arguments and testimony against the project are tied to a differing opinion from city leaders about the project. Co-attorney Jenny Weiss also said residents had several opportunities to make their complaints and concerns known at public city meetings before both the zoning change and permit were approved.

Susan Hess, attorney for the committee, said the building permit has expired and no work has been done by the developer. She asked the judge to issue an injunction on the council from approving a new building permit.

The city's attorneys said that if the project fell apart, the city would lose out on significant revenue. In an affidavit, Dyersville City Administrator Mick Michel noted that the city would stand to lose about $9.682 million in anticipated tax revenue and water/sewer improvements.

Hess also asked Bitter to grant a motion for discovery relating to any improper contact between city leaders and developers about the proposed project, which Henry criticized for being overly broad to determine the validity of the rezoning.

"We would resist discovery regarding this laundry list of real and imagined concerns," Henry said.

January 8, 2014


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