On April 7, three of the five Scott County Supervisors – Carol Earnhardt, Jim Hancock, and Tom Sunderbruch – approved a stunningly short-sighted change to the Scott County Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) that allows for spot zoning anywhere in the county’s unincorporated areas. Supervisors Diane Holst and Brinson Kinzer respected the community-at-large’s wishes and voted against the change in the spirit of true representation.
The county’s current Agricultural Preservation Zoning District prevents spot zoning – developments that don’t conform to the surrounding land use – on any agriculture property outside city limits. But the three supervisors provided the necessary votes to begin the approval process for a new zoning designation called an Industrial Floating Zone (IFZ) to skirt that protection. April 7’s vote was the first of three readings over the next four weeks that will change the CLUP to allow the county and Quad Cities First – the economic-development arm of the Quad Cities Chamber – to market prime farmland for a “megasite” (1,000 acres or more) to potential industrial operators.
The Iowa Economic Development Authority established 17 regional marketing groups – including Quad Cities First – to help attract industrial development to Iowa, and it’s offering marketing grants of up to $50,000 per project. The fund expires in November, so the pressure is on to get the IFZ passed before that deadline. (See RCReader.com/y/ifz1.)
The Greater Davenport Redevelopment Corporation – a partnership of Scott County, the City of Davenport, the Quad Cities Chamber, and MidAmerican Energy – owns and operates the Eastern Iowa Industrial Park, but it’s running out of sites to market, and none is large enough to qualify as a megasite. Ergo the Industrial Floating Zone, which by circumventing current protections for prime farmland will open up the entire unincorporated county to potential industrial development.
And this is precisely what makes the Industrial Floating Zone so egregious. Most counties and municipalities allocate specific acres of property for site certification as a megasite. Certification criteria demand that qualifying properties have infrastructure already in place. With the IFZ, this is not the case. It’s all up for negotiation, and no surrounding properties are protected from the intrusion, leaving an entire rural community economically insecure going forward. And county residents can bank on their tax dollars paying for necessary infrastructure as part of the incentives used to entice an industrial operation here.