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Local attorney seeks city council seat

BY REBECCA MORIN | OCTOBER 21, 2013 5:00 AM

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After filing a lawsuit to try to stop a controversial downtown Iowa City high-rise project, one local attorney hopes landing a seat on the city’s governing body will allow him to address that and a number of other prominent issues.

“At this point, it does not appear that there is any finalized contract [on the Chauncey development], so I want to make clear that I will not compromise the city’s liability if there’s a binding contract, but if there’s not, I’ll push the reset button, and I’m going to stop any part of that process that is not legally binding,” said city council candidate Rockne Cole. “We need to ensure that if they’re talking about using our tax dollars, that everyone has access to that housing, that it’s real workforce housing.”

Cole, a local attorney, and Iowa City resident since 1997, has recently caught public attention with his involvement with the Iowa Coalition Against the Shadow — an advocacy group in opposition against Moen Group’s $53 million the Chauncey development.

In recent months, the group has maintained that the Marc Moen-headed development is inconsistent with the well-established surrounding neighborhoods.

The Daily Iowan previously reported Moen said he understands concerns of those against the development, while disagreeing with them.

“Some people just don’t like it, and I understand that and I respect that,” he said. “I understand the debate about the size and design, but I don’t understand why we are ostracizing a group of people that want to be here … [Opponents] want Iowa City to be all inclusive, but if you try to bring quality housing for adults downtown, they scream foul.”

Cole, a graduate of the University of Iowa College of Law, said if elected, one of his goals is bettering communication between the Iowa City Downtown District and the UI in order to create more jobs for students.

In regards to the 20-story Chauncey creating more jobs, Cole argued that other developments would have created more.

“Are we willing to compromise our future and future generation’s rights to enjoy sunshine in that neighborhood just solely for economic development — we’re for economic development,” Cole said.

Both the 18-floor Chauncey Gardens proposals, which would have included space for New Pioneer Food Co-Op, Cole said, would have translated into 40 extra jobs and $2 million to the local agriculture economy.

Calling for a change, Jon Fogarty, a colleague of Cole’s, said he hopes that the new candidates will be able to bring the Chauncey back to the council’s agenda.

“I don’t know if it can be done or not — hopefully, we can get a re-examination of the Chauncey project and avoid making a 100-year mistake,” said Fogarty, a member of the Iowa Coalition Against the Shadow. “Hopefully, with Rockne and a few other new councilors being elected, we can infuse some clear logic into the council’s decision-making process.”

Aside from focusing on the Chauncey, Cole’s platforms include expanding urban sustainability, such as creating an urban garden.

“The view of a lot of the current councilors is that it is something nice if we can afford it,” Cole said. “I believe that is a fundamental misconception of the power of dynamic green growth. We cannot attract the type of people if we are just focusing on concrete parking lots, we cannot do it, we need to be sustainable.”


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