City leaders, neighbors pipe up about Palmer College expansion project

Questions linger about displacement of low income neighbors

DAVENPORT, Iowa - Last week, Davenport's Plan and Zoning Commission voted to recommend that council move forward with the next step of Palmer College's expansion project. 

That's rezoning the project area. 

But Davenport's Civil Rights commission says there are still a lot of unanswered questions. 

And neighbors are pushing back, too. 

The civil rights commission director says part of Palmer's target area includes one of just two low-income housing tracts in all of Scott County. 

She says many of those people might not have anywhere else to go. 

And one neighbor says he shares that concern.

Wil Patton says he first got wind of possible changes coming to his neighborhood last election cycle. 

He was canvassing for an alderman when a neighbor brought up concerns about Palmer College's plans. 

"The loss of housing, mainly. And also just imposing. This is a pretty poor, well, low-income neighborhood," says Patton.

Latrice Lacey is the director of Davenport's Civil Rights Commission. 

She and other commission members say neighborhood impact needs a closer look before plans move forward. 

"They had concerns about how many people would potentially be displaced if the plan would be approved, and whether or not that would have a disparate impact on lower income communities and communities of color," Lacey says. 

Hundreds of people live in the proposed rezoning area and Lacey says with a shortage in affordable housing in the Quad Cities, many wouldn't have anywhere else to go. 

Patton agrees. 

"I have options. I could go live with my parents, I could go find another place, you know, a lot of people don't have those options," says Patton. 

And although Patton's house is just outside the proposed project area, he's still concerned about his housing, too. 

"I would figure we would be next, and also I just don't think it's right. My rent is probably going to go up," he says. 

Patton also says that Palmer College isn't providing enough information about the potential consequences of the project to those who matter most-- the people who'd have to find another place to live. 

"I don't feel like we're that informed down here. We're not kept that much in the loop, so there's probably not a lot of people who even know about it." 

He says he's tried to get answers from Palmer, but got the runaround. 

Patton says he's not opposed to Palmer's expansion, he just wants input. 

"There is a better way that we could go about this, one where Palmer is less parasitic to the community that houses them. And we should explore that," says Patton. 

A Palmer College spokesperson directed our questions to Davenport City Council. 

Third Ward Alderman Marion McGinnis says she is aware of the project concerns in her ward, but can't comment until the next city council meeting. 

That is set for Wednesday, Feb. 21, starting with a public hearing at 5:30 p.m. 


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