First, I want to thank The News for offering space to allow the city of Kalona to give an update about its discussions with Shiloh. Kalona, like any community, will experience speculation – some factual and others not so much so. 

The opportunity Shiloh presented to the community in the past few months of discussion is unique and incredible. This article will provide information about how we got to this point and how to proceed with community engagement.

I’ll say right from the start that the city does not have all the answers. For a unique project like this to be considered, we need active public engagement.

How we got here

In late 2018, the city of Kalona was approached by Shiloh about revisiting a proposal to allow for a connection of Shiloh’s water system to the city. The connection plan would provide a more redundant water system of mutual benefit to Kalona residents and Shiloh’s 200-plus-acre primary property south of Kalona’s city limits.

During these discussions, Shiloh brought up the idea of voluntary annexation for the roughly 200-plus acres for development. With the property not contiguous to the current city limits the possibility of a water connection for services leant itself to more expanded discussions.

During subsequent meetings, it became apparent that the wonderful facilities created by Shiloh would have public purpose for not only Kalona residents but all of Washington County.

For some time, we discussed a trail system that would move south from Kalona to Richmond. With what is being proposed by Shiloh, through easements and annexation, this could be a reality creating a destination that would include city-owned and maintained ponds, a lake with a beach, timber areas with natural trails, amphitheater, ballfields and a basketball court and acres of public green space.

A key part in the discussion is whether transitioning the Shiloh buildings to the city of Kalona could lend itself to community and county collaboration about how best to program the space to benefit area needs. 

The City Council on March 18 directed staff to begin putting pieces together to determine how best to use land and facility space, potentially given to the city of Kalona for public use. Representatives with numerous local entities, along with the city have toured the Shiloh facilities many times and concluded that there are many wonderful uses for well built, geothermal, fire suppressed, ADA friendly facility that could easily be repurposed for public use.

Benefits for Kalona

So, what is in this for Kalona?

There is the potential for financial benefits to the city of Kalona as development is brought onto our tax rolls in the form of new homes upon Shiloh selling or partnering with a developer for new construction.

The city of Kalona, as with all subdivisions, would have a seat at the table to help facilitate and make recommendations to Shiloh and potential partners regarding design and development. It allows for the city to potentially take ownership through Shiloh gifting amenities, land and structures that otherwise we may never come to construct. 

What does voluntary annexation mean to the city of Kalona?

Voluntary annexation is simply the process in which Shiloh asks the city of Kalona to bring its land and future development into the city limits. At such point the city takes on ownership of providing city services for subsequent growth. The uniqueness of the Shiloh property is that it currently has both water and sewer facilities as well as foundations for further development in place, including paved entrance, roads and fire hydrants.

What will be Kalona’s financial obligation?

The city of Kalona is not buying Shiloh. Any Shiloh assets or facilities deeded over to the city of Kalona will be done at no cost to the city of Kalona. 

Shiloh statement

What does this mean for Shiloh?

The following statement is from the Shiloh directors: 

Shiloh is now a local church rather than a center for a fellowship of churches throughout North and South America. Now the needs of our facilities have begun to lessen our congregations’ time to devote to our local church mission.

Our intent is to devote more church resources and increase our community engagement in better meeting our mission. If the steps now being investigated can be implemented, we believe it will be a win for both Shiloh and the city of Kalona.

Shiloh’s is in the process of developing plans for a more size-appropriate church facility to meet the needs of a local congregation. 

On March 24, the concept to continue discussions with the city of Kalona was presented to the Shiloh congregation. The concept to move forward with future discussions with the city of Kalona was accepted by the congregation.

Moving forward

What’s the city plan going forward?

Based on our discussions, the city wants to establish a committee to formulate a plan and recommendation to be presented to the City Council. We want to have a mixture of entities we feel might have an interest in space as well as from business, community residents and non-residents.

Many individuals have only truly seen Shiloh’s facility at July Fourth fireworks celebrations. There is much more to it. We would look, in partnership with Shiloh, to provide an open house for the public to view the facilities firsthand. 

If you would like to be engaged in the discussion and be willing to join a working committee, please reach out to City Hall at 319-656-2310 or email RSchlabaugh@CityOfKalona.org. As always if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out.

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