Jasper County Highway Project Threatens Family Farm

JASPER COUNTY, Iowa –A Jasper County farmer is fighting for the right to keep his land.  Tuesday the DOT Commission approved a five year plan that includes a re-design on the intersection of highways 330 and 65.

The Iowa Department of Transportation has two plans to make this intersection safer.  One of them calls for taking 50-acres of Larry Cleverley’s land plus three homes on the property and out buildings.

“Not only are they taking these personal assets, the land the house so forth, but they’re also going to take away my living,” says Cleverley.

If acres of his land are taken through eminent domain, Cleverley would be forced to start over.

He’s been farming for 18 years on the same land his grandparents did 86 years ago.

That would include getting re-certified as an organic farmer.

“There is a three year transition period for me to get certified again, I’ll be 63 years old in September, I don’t know if I’m looking at a forced early retirement,” says Cleverley.

The DOT has two plans on the table.  One called the Diamond Interchange which would replace the intersections with entrance and exit ramps. It would cost $14.5 Million dollars.

The J-Turn plan would eliminate left turns. Motorists would be forced to use the J-turn around to reach their destination.  This plan would cost $750,000 and would spare the Cleverley Farm.

Cleverley provides organic produce to several restaurants around the metro.

“There are 60,000 salads people in metro Des Moines are eating off our farm, not to mention our potatoes and our beans, heirloom tomatoes, beats, carrots and radishes, broccoli and cauliflower right on down the line.  We are a huge part of the food community in Des Moines,” says Cleverley.

He hopes the DOT considers the service he’s providing to the community when it picks the plan that could divide his land.

“It`s a long way from over, we`re going to continue to fight for our home and our livelihood.  If we`re gone people are going to miss us,” says Cleverley.

DOT officials will spend the next month deciding which plan to go with.

If the diamond interchange proposal is selected, the DOT would begin talking to land owners in 2016 with construction expected to begin the following year.

If the J-turn proposal is selected construction could begin much sooner.

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