The City of Waverly is currently making plans for an eight-diamond youth baseball and softball complex along Cedar River Parkway.
However, one neighbor voiced his concerns at Monday’s Waverly City Council meeting that the process may be going too fast and without enough transparency in establishing the ball fields. He even questioned whether it’s in the right place or with the right design and if the Ball Diamonds Task Force had taken the neighbors into account.
Paul Mugan, who lives close to the proposed complex and is also a Waverly-Shell Rock High School science teacher, said that the city does need “good” diamonds.
“We need things that our community and our kids can be proud of,” Mugan said. “I question whether the plan for the ball diamonds is in the right spot. It would be a stone’s throw from my neighborhood.”
He asked task force chairman and middle school principal Jeremy Langner to help increase awareness of the project in the Eliason Addition. Langner sent Mugan a PDF of a flyer, which was the extent of his participation, Mugan said.
Recently, residents in the area surrounding the project site received a letter from the city announcing the rezoning plans for that area for an upcoming Planning and Zoning Commission meeting. So, Mugan printed 75 copies of the flyer and distributed them to his neighbors.
“I made extra effort to include in the flyer the features of the complex that I think would be impressive if the complex would move forward — the Miracle Field, the bike trails, those kinds of things,” he said. “On the back, I did include some of my concerns, and some of the concerns that are shared by my neighborhood.”
He told the council among his concerns are the quick pace of the planning, parking, water and traffic.
Mugan felt that the project is developing so soon after the demise of Champions Ridge, which was the original plan to build new ball diamonds and the new home of the Bremer County Fair.
“The dust hasn’t settled on Champions Ridge, and this project has really been pushed forward at the cost of communication,” he said.
“When I knocked on every door of my neighborhood on Saturday and Sunday — that was a handshake and a smile with probably 50-plus of my neighbors. I was astounded with the number of my neighbors who had no idea where this was coming and where this was going to be.”
He claimed there were no opportunities for open meetings or neighborhood input. However, at the end of the council meeting, At-Large Councilwoman Ann Rathe, who serves as the liaison for the task force, said all of the meetings are open to the public and meet currently on an as-needed basis.
“People are welcome to come,” Rathe said. “They’re listed on the city website. … We’re going to have another (meeting) at the end of January, once we hear back from the engineers.”
The council had approved a professional services agreement with Hall and Hall Engineering, of Hiawatha, for a not-to-exceed fee of $308,550 total including expenses while also having three additional soil borings taken at the site by ATC Group Services, of Waterloo, for $4,700.
Mugan said his concerns for the parking plans are two-fold. First, one lot has 40 to 50 stalls that is on the north side of the complex that visitors can only access via Crestwood Avenue.
“Crestwood is not a road intended for significant traffic,” he said. “There are no sidewalks through that neighborhood, especially on Crestwood. We would either have to build sidewalks or understand that we’re increasing traffic in a sidewalk-less neighborhood.”
He also pointed out the plans for some parking to be shared with the Waverly Shell Rock Soccer Complex across the parkway from the ball diamonds.
“If this is a kids-oriented baseball complex, are we really expecting kids — and their parents — to cross a road to get to the baseball complex from the soccer parking?” Mugan posed. “That road is intended for higher traffic; it’s intended now for 45 mph. If the parking potential isn’t sufficient, that’s a major red flag for me right there.”
He later added that the traffic concerns needed to be discussed and brought to the attention of the neighborhood.
He also expressed concerns over water-retention plans for the site. When he moved to Waverly in 1999, neighbors had told him, “You’ve got to come see the water, you’re never going to see it this high again. Bring your camera. Let’s take some pictures.”
“And then 2008 happened and 2016 happened,” Mugan said, recalling the last two high-water events in the southeast quadrant of town. “That area was significantly covered with water — 2008 much more obviously.
“We have raised the grading for the parkway, which provides a natural barrier for the water — we purposefully had to build that up. So now we have flood waters that could potentially bump up into that raised parkway. If we’ve flattened what would be north of that raised parkway, where’s that water going?”
He suggested the city conduct a study to tell how much the planned complex would affect flooding in the southeast quadrant of Waverly.
Mugan also contended that the plans showed several “holding ponds” for stormwater. He said three of those are butted against some residential properties along the east side of Third Street Southeast.
“Those homes are already dealing with wet basements and issues of that nature,” he said. “When the water comes up, those homes have basement issues. Having a retainment point basically a step outside the fence line has potential cost problems.
“When I first looked at the plan, my very first inclination that this was planned for baseball with no consideration of the neighbors was that set of retainment ponds.”
However, city officials stated that the blue areas shown on the plans were not ponds, but bioswales. Rathe said the bioswales would help with drainage of the site.
“There will be no ponds at this point,” Rathe insisted, “but it is confusing on the site plan.”
Public Works Director Mike Cherry said only a very small portion of the complex would lie even in the 100-year flood plain.
“Everything is basically outside of that,” Cherry said.
Rathe added that the soil in the area is sandy anyway, so the site would drain better.
In summing up his remarks, Mugan said he’s seen more openness at other times.
“When things of this magnitude have happened in Waverly, we’ve had a more transparent process,” Mugan said. “People have known about it.
“This has been very quickly done at the cost of communication.”
Leisure Services Director Garret Riordan said the task force will hold its next meeting on Jan. 20 prior to the next scheduled City Council meeting in the Civic Center.
“I am trying to set up a date with the engineers as to when we’re going to have a neighborhood meeting, so that they can address any questions and concerns about water runoff, about any of those things,” Riordan said. “That has not been out there yet, because we don’t have a date yet.
“We are looking at the beginning of February or end of January.”