AMES, Iowa — An Iowa farmer gave one last plea Tuesday to keep his family-owned land in the face of eminent domain.
Jasper County organic farmer Larry Cleverley has been fighting the Iowa Department of Transportation for seven years. Cleverley is asking the DOT to find an alternative to a road project that would take 60 acres of his 220-acre land.
The DOT is proposing a $15 million diamond interchange at two intersections along Highway 330 and Highway 117. It claims the proposal will make the two intersections safer after several serious accidents and fatalities.
The Iowa DOT said the area has become the second most dangerous rural expressway intersection in the entire state.
“Over a 13-year period, we’ve had eleven fatal accidents. It’s our job to balance the social environmental impact vs the safety of traveling public and in this case with, with eleven fatal accidents, that’s an extremely high number and that’s why the interchange is warranted,” said Iowa DOT Engineer Scott Dockstader.
While Cleverley said he doesn’t disagree that safety is important, he also said there’s a better alternative. He presented DOT officials with an engineering firm’s study on Tuesday that he funded.
The study shows installing two J-turns would cost the taxpayers about $1.5 million and it would be just as safe and it would save all but half an acre of his farm land. He said the land has been in his family for nearly 90 years.
“I can’t even describe how it’s going to feel. I don’t think I’ll be able to watch them tear this homestead and farm apart,” Cleverley said.
The DOT commission voted 4-3 to not take action on Cleverley’s proposal, citing several reasons why a J-turn isn’t a feasible option.
Cleverley says he’s disappointed, and Tuesday was his last effort to stop the project. It will also wipe out his certified organic status which takes three years to obtain.
This year will also be his last at the Downtown Farmers’ Market where he’s ran a booth for 20 years.
Cleverly Farms posted on its Facebook after the meeting Tuesday, saying “we lost.”