MARION — With Marion’s population expected to reach 40,000 in the near future, how should the city prepare for that continued growth?
That was one of the questions put to three of the five candidates seeking seats on the Marion City Council during a Thursday evening candidate forum at Linn-Mar High School.
At-large candidate Randy Strnad said thinking about city infrastructure — roads to future residential areas, the increased demand on sewers and waterlines — is important. Also essential is communicating the reason for plans with residents.
“We’ve got to remember the general public sometimes gets the misconception of why we put this street in or do this,” Strnad said. “We have to build the street in order to get the developer to build the lots and have these homes built.”
Ward 2 candidate Steve Jensen said it’s important to focus on arterial roads, such as Tower Terrace Road.
More communication through letters, social media and websites, he said, will help homebuilders and homebuyers know what commercial developments may be built near their neighborhoods in the future.
He also said introducing more urban-style housing will help in the revitalization of the Uptown area.
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Rene Gadelha, unopposed for a Ward 4 seat, said updating the city’s master plan would be one of her main goals so there is a clear vision of what areas will be developed, including Tower Terrace Road.
She said she’d work to make the master plan more easily accessible to homebuyers and developers.
“Having an updated master plan will allow us to look and see what can go where,” she said. “Prospective business and residents can look and see ‘if I go here, this also will go here.’ It helps us be transparent.”
Each of the three candidates said they wanted to increase commercial business in the city to even out the tax base and provide more amenities for residents.
“The tax base is 75 percent residential and 25 percent commercial,” Jensen said. “There’s a much higher burden on residential. It’s essential for us to focus on economic development and tax-base diversification.”
He said he will advocate for continued revitalization of the Uptown district, which could bring more residents into the area, with more people spending money at additional businesses.
“If you’re growing a business, you need more employees,” he said. “If you need more employees, you need things for them to do in the city. Then you need to attract more businesses.”
Gadelha said using existing resources, such as the chamber and the Marion Economic Development Corp., helps bring more businesses to the area.
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Also, she said, tapping into local colleges and high schools to involve students in workforce development would help keep workers in the area while allowing Marion to remain a good place to raise a family.
Strnad said it’s important to understand where “leakage” might exist in the community, or the ways in which Marion loses business to stores, restaurants and goods and service providers elsewhere. Attracting similar businesses to Marion will help the community be self-sufficient, he said.
Another Marion candidate forum, hosted by the League of Women Voters of Cedar Rapids/Marion, will be at 6 p.m. Oct. 23 at Lowe Park, 4500 N. 10th St.
Two candidates — Bruce Cummins, seeking the at-large seat; and Peter Johnson, a Ward 2 candidate — were unable to attend the Thursday evening forum, which was hosted by the Marion Economic Development Corp. and the Marion Chamber of Commerce.
You can read The Gazette’s guide to candidate forums here.
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