With no discussion, the five members of Princeton City Council unanimously approved the annexation of a project known as the Anderson 400 on Thursday night.
The city’s planning and zoning commission will need to rezone the 400 acres that comes into the city as residential land. When that is done, the City Council will hold three public hearings on the rezoning unless the number is waived by a super-majority of the council, which is four of five votes.
Given that schedule the land could be rezoned in June or July.
The land is to be used for a green business park, and owners Paul and Marijo Anderson are going through the three-step process of certification through the Iowa Economic Development Authority.
To be designated "green," the commercial development must be built according to written, environmentally friendly specifications, and as one of the designated categories that the authority can certify as “shovel ready” for development.
With Iowa’s certification, the park would be marketed to regional, national or worldwide businesses seeking a regional or corporate headquarters and would be developed under specifications that include the construction of buildings to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards, preservation of any remnant ecosystems, such as wetlands, and adherence to lighting approved by the International Dark-Sky Association.
“Not only does it mean something for Princeton, but what it means for eastern Iowa, the state and the region,” Marijo Anderson said after annexation had been approved.
“The Iowa Economic Development Authority Director, Debi Durham, is so excited,” Anderson said. “This is a one-of-a-kind site in the whole state. There are no other green certified sites in this area.”
Step two of the certification process is due March 16, Anderson said, as she showed off a thick binder of all the required work and documentation that had been done.
“The state will have all of this for three months, and in June or July we will know if we will be invited back for step three,” she said. “There’s a chance we wouldn’t be.”
Marti Ahlgren, project manager with the Quad-City engineering firm Shive Hattery, said step three is providing detailed documentation such as wetland delineation and mitigation, development of the master plan, and identifying any protective covenants, to name a just a few.
If the Andersons are invited back for step three, then they would turn everything in and have to wait about 16 months. The certification process would not be completed until roughly October 2019.
However, the Andersons have a marketing team that includes Mel Foster Co.
Anderson said the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce is ready to begin marketing once the annexation took place.
Asked if an interested buyer would walk in before Iowa’s certification process is complete, Anderson slapped her thigh and said, “That’s great!”
“If somebody walks in the door and says they want it now, we’re gonna say go,” she said.
“We’re not going to tell any interested buyer to wait 16 months until we find out if Iowa certifies us,” she said. “We’ve already done a lot of leg work they won’t have to do, which will save them both time and money. They’ll thank us for that.
“I think when that potential buy sees the video and what it can be, I think we could have a buyer before the state certification is done,” Anderson said.
Anderson added they could have gone through Scott County, LeClaire or Princeton. However, Princeton made the most sense.
“Princeton has the capacity on all utilities,” she said. “MidAmerican Energy has lifetime easements through our property both gas and electric.
“But for water and waste Princeton has the capacity,” she added. “LeClaire is 3.7 miles down the road. Just think of bringing the water and sewer lines that far. The buyer will be paying part of the cost and lines that far would be expensive.”
Princeton Mayor Robert Woomert said after the meeting that the city already has built a new well and remodeled the lagoon to increase capacity.
“If we need to, we’ll dig another well and lagoon,” he said.
Also, Princeton has TIF (tax increment financing, dollars), Anderson said, “and the buyer will want those TIF dollars.”
Several Princeton residents spoke about the issue during the public hearing portion of the meeting, which was attended by about 40 people.
Brian Carter said, “I’m kind of for it,” but he wants to make sure the land is used for a green business park and not manufacturing.
“Make sure that everything is in place to not put manufacturing in, or motels or a gas station,” Carter said. “That’s perfect property back there. It adjoins the town. Hopefully, it’s the right decision tonight.”
Jim Egger, who lives in the River Highlands subdivision, was not so sure.
“The Andersons have put together a tremendous plan, no doubt about it,” Egger said. “My concern is, is it really viable?”
Egger compared the project to the city building an Amtrak station in the hopes that Amtrak would run a train through the town. “That would be unlikely to happen,” he said.
The 400 acres has potential, he added, “but when it’s so isolated from the Quad-Cities, the likelihood of it being developed in this manner (a green business park) is likely none.”
Harold and Margaret Anderson -- parents of Paul, Susie, Lorene, Karen, Krista and Amy -- raised their family on The Anderson 400.
Paul farmed it from 1970 to 1990, but did not live there.
Margaret died in 2013 and Harold in 2015. Margaret and Harold Anderson lived on The Anderson 400 from 1970 to 2015
Paul and Marijo Anderson raised their family in Dublin, Ohio and, since 2002, Solon, Iowa.