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Deere to be different

NORTH LIBERTY–The west end of Lininger Lane will see additional development this spring.
City Tractor Company, Inc., a dealership which sells and services lawn and commercial worksite equipment– largely of the John Deere brand– submitted a commercial site plan for approval by the North Liberty City Council on Tuesday, Jan. 13.
The plan calls for a 12,400 sq. ft. building which will house a showroom, offices, shop and storage space, as well as a 4,800 sq. ft. storage building to be located on the northwest corner of Penn Court and Lininger Lane.
The council unanimously okayed the plan after hearing comments from city staff and a recommendation for approval from the Planning & Zoning Commission.
John Conrads, City Tractor co-owner, was present at last Tuesday’s meeting to explain the intent of the commercial operation.
“We’re a different kind of John Deere store,” said Conrads. “We don’t sell combines and planters to farmers. There also exists a John Deere contract for just lawn equipment, and that’s not us, either.”
Conrads said the new site will be more of an “in-between” retailer, providing equipment ranging from garden tractors to contract utility tractors for consumer and commercial use. He pointed out that the John Deere company does not constrain stores to a specific style of building, and each dealership is allowed to have a more distinct look.
“We will offer an urban John Deere store– along with a few other brands,” he added.
Conrads said the North Liberty location was advantageous to reach a customer base west toward Amana, east toward Solon, and north toward Cedar Rapids.
“There is a lot of development around the North Liberty area, and we think it’s a nice location,” said Conrads.
The North Liberty Planning & Zoning Commission’s recommendation came with a few stipulations, relating mostly to displaying equipment: City Tractor must limit its outdoor displays to specific, identified areas, and all equipment– such as lifts, backhoes or similar vertically-capable machines– must not be displayed in an extended position. Also, no maintenance or repair work will be allowed in display areas.
City Planner Dean Wheatley said the City Tractor proposal will benefit development in that area.
“This project has been a long time coming,” Wheatley told the council. “It’s important because it’s the first one on the north side of Penn in that area. I’ve been in contact with developers for that general area. It will be a start, and I think we’ll soon see others.”
Mayor Tom Salm agreed the proposed store would be a good thing for the community.
“I was at the Planning & Zoning meeting, and John did a very good job on the presentation . You can tell he has a lot of passion for this project.”
The City Tractor proposal will now move on to the city’s Board of Adjustment meeting agenda on Jan. 21 to seek approval for a conditional use permit for outside storage, said project engineer Duane Musser, of MMS Consultants.