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Occupy Iowa City: Controversy surrounds College Green structure

BY DORA GROTE | OCTOBER 26, 2011 7:20 AM

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Occupiers and city officials are left confused after miscommunication has flooded the issue of building a structure on College Green Park.

Though occupiers said they felt they were given permission to build the structure, city officials said Tuesday the structure will not be allowed and maintained they never gave the protesters permission.

In a memo to the occupiers on Monday, Mike Moran, the city's director of Parks and Recreation, said he would consider the appropriateness of a temporary structure if the protesters submitted an application for the use of College Green Park.

But protesters feel city officials are going back on their word.

 

"It's the fact that [city officials] are trying to pull back now, and are we going to let them do that?" said occupier Tom Hudson.

But city officials said they never gave occupiers the permission to build the structures in the first place.

"I think the point that I would make is when we met with them initially, there was a concern they wanted to build some type of structure," said the City Manager Tom Markus. "My response to them was that they needed to go through the building-permit processes. You can't just build structures."

He said the main issue regarding the structure is miscommunication.

"I think there was confusion that these structures are being used for human occupancy, and buildings for assembly require very specific building reviews," Markus said. "We didn't know what they were building, and we had to shut it down."

Occupy member Stephany Hoffelt said there has been erroneous information leaked about the structure that needs to be clarified.

"We have no intentions of building anything that would require a building permit," Hoffelt said.

Hudson noted that occupiers have no intentions of obstructing the historical park.

"There are no plans to dig," he said. "We care about the park and have no plans to hurt it."

City officials met on Tuesday afternoon to approve the permit the occupiers agreed to, which allows them to legally continue occupying College Green Park.

But one occupier said the permit is not the most important issue.

With the cold weather approaching, occupiers are concerned about keeping warm.

"Right now, what is more important [than the permit] in my view is that we are able to have one or more structures that we can have a certain degree of heat," said occupier Mauro Heck. "We have to approach the city with firmness and not bow to them and not be confrontational but ask them how we can work this out with it escalating any more."

City officials iterated that it was a means of miscommunication.

"They think they were told one thing, and we changed direction. I will be the first in the community to apologize," Markus said. "They had hoped we had been receptive to other levels of temporary structures."

But Moran made it clear the structure will not be allowed.

"We just don't allow structures to be built on public property," he said.


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