County delays land sale decision after protests

County delays land sale decision after protests

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MASON CITY — Cerro Gordo County supervisors put off action Tuesday on a proposed sale of county land to Croell Redi-Mix of Mason City.

Several people spoke against the sale at a public hearing, including representatives from Yohn Redi-Mix of Clear Lake, who said the sale would hurt their business.

Jim Skarlis of Community Motors and Mary Lensing of North Iowa Golf also objected.

Croell wants to purchase 15.5 acres of county land on Lark Avenue across the street from the Law Enforcement Center for $154,900.

After 40 minutes of discussion, the board voted to defer action until June 28 to give supervisors time to evaluate points made on both sides of the issue.

Matt Berry, representing Yohn, said Croell’s proposed site would give Croell “an unfair competitive advantage.”

He suggested the Mason City Industrial Park or the vacated Holcim cement plant would be better suited for Croell.

Skarlis expressed concerns about air quality, saying it could have an effect on $5 million-$20 million in inventory at his business on Highway 122. “We have a big investment in Mason City,” he said, “and pay more than $100,000 in property taxes.”

Lensing expressed concerns about an industrial development going into an area that she thought would be commercial.

“If you have industrial, nobody is going to be interested in commercial property on the corridor,” she said.

Bill Croell, owner of Croell Redi-Mix, said his current plant on North Massachusetts is obsolete.

“After a long search, we determined this was the best location for our plant,” he said.

Croell said his company would invest about $1 million in the new site, and wouldn’t do that if it wasn’t ready to comply with all environmental regulations. “We’re not going to invest all of this money to build a non-compliant plant,” he said.

Ken Bales, representing the North Iowa Corridor Economic Development Corp., said he has worked for three years with Croell to try to find a site.

He said the Holcim property is not an option because it is not for sale.

He said the EDC did not recommend any particular site. “Our job is to show available sites. After that, it is up to the buyer. We would do the same thing for anyone thinking of relocating in Mason City,” said Bales.

But Laura Yohn, whose family owns Yohn Red-Mix, said, “Croell Redi-Mix has been a good competitor and a good neighbor. But the EDC did an injustice to our company by holding their hand as they went through this process.”

The postponement on taking action provides time for anyone else interested in the land to also make an offer on it.

If that happens, and supervisors are interested in the new offer, they would have to vote to decline the Croell offer.

Then the process would begin again with public hearings on the new offer.

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