Voluntary annexation of Shiloh property into Kalona city limits still in discussion phase

GTNS photo by Gretchen Teske

Among many facilities on the Shiloh property is a large meeting room that is currently used for large gatherings such as baby showers and wedding receptions.
GTNS photo by Gretchen Teske Among many facilities on the Shiloh property is a large meeting room that is currently used for large gatherings such as baby showers and wedding receptions.

KALONA — The City of Kalona is exploring the possibility of voluntary annexation of approximately 200 acres of the Shiloh property into city limits.

No definitive plan has been made, but Kalona City Administrator Ryan Schlabaugh said he is excited about the potential for opportunity. Shiloh has recently requested some of their property be annexed into city limits as they are looking to build a new church after choosing to separate from their legal relationship with the Living Word Fellowship. Shiloh will continue their mission as a local church in Kalona.

“The plan is not to come in and take land or ownership of the entire parcel, it’s to come up with what that equitable split may be for both parties,” he said.

Annexation is the process of extending city limits to include a specific space. In this case, upon growth and development of the space, as spearheaded by Shiloh, the city would then be responsible for the same maintenance responsibilities they currently enact- garbage pickup, roads, etc. The city would not take ownership of the property unless it was deeded to the City of Kalona.

Recently, multiple Washington County entities, such as Emergency Management, Public Health and Conservation, have toured the property as the city looks to explore how the space can be utilized effectively. No concrete plan has been put in place, only open dialogue to access the needs of local entities and how the Shiloh property could be a valuable resource to potentially house those entities in the future.

The 90,000 square foot building that was built in the mid-70s has working geothermal, a sprinkler system and is ADA compliant. Schlabaugh said this is a valuable resource within the building because it will help cut down on the cost of running the facility, should the city choose to move forward with the process.

“Some of the concerns that we’ve had in the public is what that fiscal impact would be, and we’re still exploring through the numbers what that would mean to Kalona, but some of the initial numbers that would give sticker shock for a building this size are fairly manageable due to some of the efficiencies they have put in place,” he said.

On the main level of the building is a chapel that seats 300, a conference room, executive suite, community room, small kitchen and dining area, first-aid room, approximately 24 dormitory style rooms, four Sunday school/ Home School style rooms and public restrooms.

On the upper level are more dormitory style rooms, suites, public restrooms, storage and audiovisual rooms for the chapel. On the lower level are business offices, the Shiloh University Suite, a library, utilities, 13 apartments and a tunnel connection to storage and a storm shelter.

There is an additional annex building with a kitchen, playground, open area, bar area and storage space. Outside is a maintenance building and multiple amenities such as a lake with a beach, amphitheater, baseball field, basketball court and wooded areas.

Because the building is so large, the city is looking to see what potential public entities and/or private businesses have a possible interest in occupying space inside. If the city moves forward with the annexation process, the goal is that the public access areas, such as the lake, amphitheater and sporting areas would become accessible to the public.

Ron Caquelin, one of three directors at Shiloh, explained the ground breaking for the property was in 1974. In its beginnings, Shiloh was part of a non-denominational fellowship of churches that became a local church that was part of the Living Word Fellowship. The church was designed as a space for worship, camps and conferences.

According to a news release posted on the Shiloh website, dated Dec. 26, 2018, the church is ending its legal relationship with The Living Word Fellowship and will continue their mission independently.

“This step is being taken in response to recent reports of misconduct by a former leader in The Living Word Fellowship as well as a determination that Shiloh church can better serve the Lord and our community under local oversight,” the release states.

Because of the separation, the church is looking to build a new structure more size-appropriate for their congregation. Caquelin said the church is exploring their options as to where their new church will be built. There is a possibility it will be built on the property as the church is looking to stay as local as possible. No final decisions have been made yet.

Adjacent to the property is Marilyn Farms, a separate business that Shiloh is one of three shareholders in. The company is a for-profit farm that produces organic products.

“(Shiloh) realized it is not fair to take church resources and land that doesn’t pay property tax and compete with other farms, so they separated that out and made that to be a for-profit company,” he explained.

The Marilyn Farms property will remain its own entity and is not included in the annexation process. If the annexation moves forward, Shiloh will remain the owner of the 200 acres being annexed. Caquelin said that land will potentially be sold off to developers while the church uses the profit for their new structure.

He said the goal with proposing the idea of annexation to the city is to introduce the space for people to gather and intended for public use. Nothing has been officially decided, but Shiloh is in talks with the city to possibly deed portions of the property, such as the lake and ball field to the city, with the intention of a positive community impact.

“It’s a unique opportunity,” said Schlabaugh. “But it’s an opportunity that very few, if any, communities have ever been presented.”

A public meeting will take place on the Shiloh property on Thursday, May 2, at 6:30 p.m. An open house will be held on Saturday, May 4, with tours available every 15 minutes beginning at 9:15 a.m. for anyone interested in viewing the property.