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NL consents to proposed annexation moratorium

NORTH LIBERTY–A proposal in what has turned out to be a very long, drawn out relationship has been made.
At least, it’s on paper.
But an annexation moratorium between the cities of North Liberty and Coralville has been proposed and accepted before. This time, North Liberty City Council member Terry Donahue wants an “agreement in principal,” he said, within one week.
Officials from the two communities have been engaged in negotiations over unincorporated land, that lies between Coralville’s northeast and North Liberty’s southeast boundaries, a process that has been on-again, off-again since the original fringe area agreement expired in 2006.
It’s been a tumultuous affair, a recap of events nearly soap-opera fodder: in those five years, Coralville unsuccessfully attempted to annex 387 acres of Scanlon farmland for development; a cadre of neighboring county residents petitioned to annex into North Liberty; both cities filed competing annexation requests with the state’s City Development Board; the board subsequently and indefinitely tabled those petitions; an unofficial moratorium was drawn up and then left to languish; and Coralville unexpectedly purchased 47 acres of land within the fringe area generally accepted as being on North Liberty’s side of the line, apparently surprising North Liberty officials and prompting new discussions of pushing for eastward annexation.
Words were exchanged through the media. Attorneys were on alert. City officials agreed to rendezvous at the table yet again.
Since May, City Administrator Ryan Heiar and his staff have been in talks with Coralville City Manager Kelly Hayworth and staff from the City of Coralville to accommodate Coralville’s recent land purchase, considering the properties North Liberty might need for new infrastructure if it were to expand to the east and redraw a map that represents a new annexation agreement between the two cities.
Heiar brought a draft map before the North Liberty City Council last Tuesday, July 26, noting that he asked Coralville to take no action on the map until he could get feedback from his own council.
Comments indicated that council members were resigned to, more than enamored of, the plan.
“We’ve gone on good faith to let this go. I want to wrap this up by next Tuesday, August 2,” said Donahue. “I want to le them know we have a finish line, or we work on our own thing. I’d like from them to have an agreement in principal from the City of Coralville that this is the line.”
The map shows the boundaries of the previously-agreed upon moratorium and a new agreement boundary that re-assigns Coralville’s recent land purchase (formerly the Pratt property). According to Heiar, Coralville agreed to allow easements on a portion of that property so North Liberty could lay new sewer and water lines if it annexes eastward.
The map also depicts an “area of concern” for Coralville, Heiar said, 20 acres that are actually part of the Scanlon property. Originally, it was shown in Coralville’s intended annexation area. In the new map North Liberty pushed to retain it, again in anticipation of future eastward expansion.
However, Heiar asked if North Liberty officials were amenable to giving up the 20 acres, in exchange for gaining abutting property to the west.
“I am in favor of this line,” said council member Chris Hoffman. “We would have control of all four corners of the intersection of Dubuque Street and North Liberty Road.” Hoffman said if the Iowa City school district decides to build a third high school in or near North Liberty, that is a likely location. “It would make geographic sense to have that area serviceable.”
Council member Coleen Chipman said she would be willing to give up the remaining 20 acres of Scanlon property to Coralville, with a stipulation that Coralville agrees not to annex any farther north than shown on the map.
North Liberty Mayor Tom Salm said that stipulation was already in place.
“That’s part of the agreement. We are drawing the line,” Salm said. “They can’t go north. It’s not going to happen.”
Salm also pointed out that the map excludes property owners who have requested not to be annexed into Coralville.
“We are not doing anything with anyone who doesn’t want to be annexed,” Salm said.
City Planner Dean Wheatley said if both cities accept the moratorium, it would be in effect for 10 years, and North Liberty would extend its infrastructure only as it forms agreements with property owners who annex into North Liberty.
The council unanimously voted to accept the proposed map, with the provisos that North Liberty give up 20 acres of property abutting the Scanlon farm in order to gain the adjacent property fronting Dubuque Street and Coralville grant easements for North Liberty to lay sewer lines on the former Pratt property.
If the process has been less than romantic, at least both sides appear to be working toward a satisfactory ending.
Heiar said the written agreement, including specific details of the moratorium, is still being arranged.