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DES MOINES, Iowa — For Jonathan Dowie it’s a dream home. “To be able to salvage something that has so much meaning to many different people,” he said. But after moving in at 2200 Chautauqua Parkway, in April 2021, he’s quickly realizing the backyard is creating a nightmare. “A storm sewer that runs through and a sanitary sewer that runs through,” said Dowie as he reference the backyard on his two-acre property.

Jonathan says because of those two easements the city of Des Moines has told him he is extremely limited when it comes to flattening the extreme dropoff behind his home which is causing his property to deteriorate. “I can’t do anything to fix the problem. They want me to pay to put in a retaining wall to keep it away from their easement. You don’t get to put something in my way and then say I have to pay to fix the problem,” said Dowie. “We’ve been dumping dirt to try and fill it in. We’ve put railroad ties in to try and stop it. We’ve done everything we can to try and stop it short of building a retaining wall,” he added.

Controversy is nothing new to the home whose second owner was Archie Alexander, the second African-American to play for the Iowa Hawkeyes football team and first to graduate from the school’s civil engineering program. The all white community in the area protested his desire to live in the home. Alexander won the battle in court. An option Dowie hopes to avoid. Dowie said, “Let’s just do what’s right. Take care of the people who live in your community and stop telling me I need to go down the legal route when you know you are going to lose.”

Jonathan says the problem is only getting worse and it is happening quickly. In April he installed two fountains on flat land on his property. By mid-March he woke up and found one of them had tumbled nearly 20 yards down the hill. That’s how much this erosion is moving. “If those easements were changed or moved I could fill it in to the point where it was no longer impacting the structure and integrity of my foundation,” said Dowie.

Administration officials with the city of Des Moines were unavailable for an immediate response. The department is working on making the city Deputy Director of Neighborhood Services available.