Let's say it right up front: We're going to do a little pretending here and imagine that when the Ankeny City Council asked for options, not recommendations for 82 acres of open ground at Northwest 36th and State streets, Community Development Director John Peterson said, "Options? I'll give you options, if that's what you want."

Peterson, a city staff veteran who has been involved in projects large and small in a surburb that seems to be in a constant state of growth, came up with ideas that give the council a lot to chew on. Equanimity is more his style, so the scenario described above probably didn't happen.


The city acquired 64 acres worth of options in an exchange with the Ankeny Community School District, which had surplus land after deciding to build what is now called Rock Creek Elementary School in the area. The land had been considered as the possible location for a high school, but those plans changed. 


In exchange for the city building $2.4 million in streets, a sanitary sewer trunk line and associated utilities, the school district signed over the deed to the land. Peterson said the entire area includes an additional 18 acres, some of it under private ownership.  


To give an idea of Ankeny's growth, the working name for the elementary school was Elementary School No. 10.


Now the city must decide whether to sell off the land, rezone and sell, enter a joint agreement with a private developer or two - the city doesn't lack for interested parties - or turn the area into a park.


The options, six in total with some divided into a suboptions, were presented during a City Council planning session Monday. Click here to view Peterson's letter that outlines each concept.


For now, the land is being farmed. Rock Creek Elementary is at the southwest section of the area and Hy-Vee Inc. has acquired 20 acres nearby for a grocery store that might not be built for another five or 10 years.


The City Council appears willing to take its time in deciding what to do with the property, Peterson said.


It will take several years to build enough rooftops over the heads of potential shoppers in the northwest section of the city before a grocery store or other commercial development occurs. On the other hand, the pace of development in the city can defy convention wisdom, he said.


There is scant chance that a couple of Peterson's proposals would actually come to fruition. One is to turn the entire area into a park and the other is to combine a park with a conservation area. Doing so would require the acquisition of additional land on the north side of the property that is pocked with prairie potholes.

When asked what kind of a reaction he receives when suggesting a conservation area, Peterson said he gets an "are you crazy?" Maybe there's an option for that.