Concerns over Lower Fourmile Creek Greenway Project forcing out business and homeowners

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DES MOINES, Iowa — A local business and homeowners are frustrated and fearful of the future as eminent domain could be used against them to create more green space along Fourmile Creek.

Efforts have been underway at Fourmile Creek to plan for future flooding. Back in 2017, Des Moines City Council approved the Lower Fourmile Creek Greenway master plan, which involves creating a greenway that will run along the lower half of the creek. But restoring the wetlands means removing infrastructure in its way.

Property owners in the area received a letter back in September, saying the Des Moines City Council intends to acquire their property for watershed management purposes by gift, negotiation, or eminent domain. 

Monday night, the council voted to move along the effort to acquire properties.

Young’s Tree Service has been at the same location for almost 100 years, and those a part of the family business are apprehensive of what’s to come.

“You can’t just come in and take people’s ground when they’ve been there that long,” Billy Young said. “The water does not bother us at all.”

Even after those on council voiced intent to help…

“I just want to make sure that we help relocate these property owners,” Councilwoman Linda Westergaard said. 

The people whose livelihood this impacts are skeptical.

“They don’t know the value that this brings to us,” Ashley Young said. “All they see is a pile of wood and what we see is how we survive, how we pay our bills, how we feed our families. And they’re basically going to take our food off if they get rid of our business.”

While the city of Des Moines is handling the buy-outs, Polk County Conservation will be the one taking on the project.

When it comes to a timeline, the city’s engineering department writes: “We have an overall timeline of 5 to 6 years to complete all of these acquisitions.  However, we are waiting for direction from Polk County in terms of how to prioritize the acquisition of each property based on their project goals.”

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