Nestle Purina

A 2003 photo of the Nestle Purina plant.

Although it does not have the final say, Davenport's Levee Improvement Commission is not in favor of licensing more than 19 acres along the riverfront for commercial vehicle parking.

Nestle Purina would like to obtain an exclusive license to park up to 360 trailers along the 1900 block of West River Drive, which formerly was dump space.

The commission unanimously approved a motion to reject recommending a 50-year lease for Nestle Purina. The Davenport City Council will make the final determination on it.

Under the terms of the lease, Nestle Purina would pay $1 annually for the first five years before the fee escalates to $6,000 annually in years six through 10. The license fee would increase $3,000 annually after each five-year period thereafter.

Members of the commission, however, were not comfortable with the terms of the lease and the long-term vision for the riverfront.

Commissioner Karl Rhomberg recalled lyrics from Joni Mitchell's famous song, "Big Yellow Taxi," when he said "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

Prior to the commission's vote, Mayor Frank Klipsch and Tom Flaherty, vice president of economic development for the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce, weighed in after speaking with representatives of Nestle Purina.

Flaherty said the chamber had been looking for a parcel to meet the company's needs but was unable to do so.

Nestle Purina vehicles make 150 trips on Rockingham Road, by far the largest truck user, and Flaherty said there was concern about wear and tear, especially with the millions of dollars in capital improvement funds being allocated to reconstructing the road.

Klipsch said an agreement needed to balance the riverfront and the interests of an economic partner such as Nestle Purina, which has been in the area for more than 100 years.

"I had a chance to speak to their plant manager, and they are committed to a long-term relationship with the city," Klipsch said. "I think they would like to find ways of expanding services if they can, and this is one way to help them and be a good citizen."

Commissioner Bill Ashton cited language in the agreement where the city would have to pay for improvement costs amortized on a 27-year straight-line basis should the city terminate the agreement.

With all the testing, inspections and surveys Nestle Purina was required to perform, Ashton said the city could very well be paying more money than it received from the licensing agreement as a result.

Commissioner Shelley Chambers said she was worried about seeing trucks after passing the "Welcome to Davenport" sign and concerned the use does not conform with the city's RiverVision plan.

As someone who uses the bike and walking paths near the parcel by Veterans Memorial Park, Alderman Kyle Gripp, at large, said a compromise could be reached that fits both parties' interests.

"We might be able to come to some aesthetic design compromise where we're able to keep our passive park space and mix in commercial use," Gripp said.

With the commission recommending against the licensing agreement, the matter will move forward to the City Council for review at a later meeting.

"Two aldermen and myself heard (their concerns), and we'll take that strongly as we move forward," Klipsch said.