SOLON, Iowa. — It is no surprise a year into development of Trail Ridge Estates by the Watts Group additional public costs are being identified. The first is environmental.
The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported yesterday the Watts Group was fined $3,000 by Iowa Department of Natural Resources for pumping construction runoff into a storm drain that leads to Lake Macbride. I note the Watts Group built the storm drain after developing what was previously a farm field. Such environmental pollution is part and parcel of a development this size. The lake is already feeling pressure from development and this additional loss of farmland has an impact. The matter was settled by the parties in a consent order signed Oct. 25.
What will cost more is the recently announced $25 million school bond expected to go to voters this spring. Trail Ridge Estates will contribute directly to area growth and the requirement for more classroom space in the school system.
The district, like the town of Solon, has seen a steady increase in enrollment since 2014, and anticipates planned housing developments — with another 500 new residential units — to bring additional families in to the district. Solon schools’ current enrollment is 1,450 and is expected to increase by about 350 to 750 students over the next 10 years, depending on how quickly new housing developments take shape.Solon schools plan $25 million bond, Cedar Rapids Gazette, Nov. 28, 2022.
The farm field in development was planted mostly in corn and soybeans, so converting it into housing is no significant loss to the food system.
Trail Ridge Estates was annexed to the City of Solon and will contribute to significant growth, maybe 50 percent more than the 2020 U.S. Census count of 3,018. What may get missed in this news is the area is evolving from what it was when we moved here into something new: a more expensive, environmentally compromised place to live. While promoters of the bond issue say it won’t increase taxes, how can it not increase expense as the school system grows to match population? The district will eventually see increased costs as a result of this development.
We will welcome more information on the bond issue. I plan to study it closely yet will likely vote for the bond. Public schools are endemic to thriving communities and we want our nearby city to thrive.