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NL receives green light to move east

NORTH LIBERTY– The City of North Liberty has been given the green light to expand its boundaries.
The state’s City Development Board voted unanimously to approve North Liberty’s application to annex a total of 567.7 acres on the city’s current southeast side.
The city received voluntary annexation petitions from property owners last fall, and North Liberty officials were poised to grant them, due to the anticipated new Iowa City school district high school to be built in that area.
North Liberty’s city administrator Ryan Heiar and city planner Dean Wheatley went to Des Moines last Wednesday, April 9, to attend the board meeting and answer any questions. The five-member City Development Board (CDB) falls under the Iowa Department of Economic Development and is responsible for reviewing and approving cities’ requests for annexation or boundary changes.
City administration communicated with the Johnson County Board of Supervisors in December 2013 because the area is in an unincorporated portion of Johnson County. The supervisors expressed no objection to the annexation, other than to express a concern over who would pay for infrastructure and roads.
The annexation is also part of a chunk of land that both North Liberty and Coralville had applied to annex seven years ago, a dispute that was settled in 2011 when the two cities crafted a map dictating each city’s future annexations. Last Wednesday, Coralville City Administrator Kelly Hayworth also attended the City Development Board meeting to support North Liberty’s new application.
Heiar said the board’s discussion at last week’s meeting was positive.
“They had a few questions related to the walkability of the future developments in the area, about county residents not included in the annexation still having access to county services, and interestingly, a question about the unincorporated island-like pieces of land located on the west side of town,” Heiar said in an email communication Monday, referring to the west-side Chipman subdivision and Meade Farm, properties unrelated to the application.
The annexation comes sooner than anticipated for the City of North Liberty, as the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) purchased 76 acres near the intersection of North Liberty Road and Dubuque Street– which lies in North Liberty’s designated annexation area– to build a third comprehensive high school. Across the road, in Coralville’s annexed jurisdiction, ICCSD will build a new elementary school.
North Liberty has already designed water and sanitary sewer systems to service the area. A $155,000 contract with Fox Engineering was approved for that purpose last November. The infrastructure design phase is still under way, and construction is slated to begin early next year. Road studies will be conducted to determine what upgrades will be needed for the anticipated traffic as well.
The city has said all along that the expense for infrastructure improvements will be shared with the school district and other developers in the area, but the costs to upgrade roads has not been designated to any jurisdiction at this point.
Heair said the CDB’s decision was the last step in the process, and the annexation will be finalized in the next few weeks.