MARION — The Marion City Council voted 5-2 Thursday to extend the hours of operation in a commercial district along Tower Terrace Road, a move opposed by those living in homes that abut the district.
The commercial district, south of Tower Terrace Road and between Third Street and Irish Drive, is owned by developer Mooney-Engle Land Co.
The current ordinance requires businesses there to close by 11 p.m., which the developer said was hurting chances to bring in new businesses, including a restaurant and movie theater.
Residents told the council in July they were worried extended hours would bring in bars and restaurants that would stay open late. Other concerns were potential decreases in property values and the district’s proximity to Linn-Mar High School.
At the council’s request, the Planning and Zoning Department drafted an amendment to the current ordinance that would allow businesses in the district, which is already zoned commercial, to stay open until midnight Monday through Friday and until 1 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
The amendment also will not allow a bar to locate in the district, and it defines the difference between a restaurant and a bar — a bar is a business that garners more than half of its revenue from alcohol sales.
“Most people were opposed to strictly a bar,” planning and development director Tom Treharne told the council Thursday. “There was also a lot of discussion as to what defined a bar and restaurant and how that can be worked into an ordinance. We brought back an ordinance ... that really addressed the major concerns.”
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Resident Jon Tracy, who owns a home that backs up to the district, said he objects to the one-hour extension that would attract more restaurants, traffic and noise.
“I’m concerned that a bar or restaurant in that area ... when people are leaving at 12:30 or 1, they’re probably not going to be going to their cars in silence,” he said.
Steve Point, another homeowner on the block, said he didn’t want more traffic and that restaurants may have happy hour that creates traffic at the same time as the Linn-Mar High students are leaving sports practices at a nearby field.
“It would just create a nightmare for this community,” he said. “I wouldn’t have bought my home there.”
Council members Will Brandt and Kim Etzel said Tower Terrace Road, as a main arterial road, is going to have traffic regardless and that residents at the July meeting said they had always understood the area was zoned commercial.
“I think it’s a good place for the teenagers to hang out,” Etzel said. “That’s not a quiet neighborhood. There’s already a lot of noise with the school, and traffic.”
“I can hear the band play, and that’s awesome,” Point said. “A lot of people live there because of the schools, not because of restaurants.”
The council voted to amend the ordinance, changing the hours of operation and establishing definitions. The ordinance will go through two more readings before being enacted.
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The council also voted to have the city begin negotiations with Aspect Architecture for the current Marion Library building.
Council member Mary Lou Pazour, however, said she thought the negotiations were happening too soon, listing concerns about parking and the uncertain future of the proposed mixed-use space that would house a new library.
City manager Lon Pluckhahn said entering into negotiations does not mean the deal is final. Aspect Architecture intends to build its own mixed-use building and perhaps a parking garage and has a “major employer interested” in the commercial space.
“The company wants to know that the council is supportive of the project,” he said. “This allows Aspect to sit down and have negotiations so they could have a lease and bring that employer to the city. Otherwise the negotiations would happen later.”
The council also adopted new ordinance language governing parades, marches and demonstrations. The city worked with the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa to draft the language that the ACLU believes is in line with the First Amendment.
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