Government

Marion Airport runway expansion underway

City council passes zoning ordinance

The runway at the Marion Airport will be widened from 23 feet to 60 feet in a $1.7 million project approved by the Marion City Council. The airport and city are considering a number of upgrades and expansions in the future. (The Gazette)
The runway at the Marion Airport will be widened from 23 feet to 60 feet in a $1.7 million project approved by the Marion City Council. The airport and city are considering a number of upgrades and expansions in the future. (The Gazette)

MARION — The Marion Airport is getting an upgrade.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the runway expansion project last week, which will widen the runway from 23 feet to 60 feet to meet the standards of a basic service airport by the Department of Transportation.

The project includes additional grading, drain tile, runway lighting and other safety improvements.

“It’s exciting,” City Manager Lon Pluckhahn said. “We’ve been working toward it for a couple of years.”

Building the runway is a $1.7 million project. Lighting, which is being replaced because of frequent maintenance, is an additional $400,000, Pluckhahn said.

“They take a lot of time and attention just to keep them active,” Pluckhahn said.

The city received a grant from the Iowa Department of Transportation for $424,000. The rest of the cost will be covered by city bonds, Pluckhahn said.

While the city doesn’t have other immediate improvement plans for the airport, Pluckhahn said it will make enhancements to signage, the parking lot and other areas of the airport to make it “easy to use.”

Tom Treharne, Marion planning and development director, said the project is “way behind.”

Construction, he said, began about a month ago, but crews, as of Thursday, have had only four working days because of the weather.

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The Marion City Council authorized extending the runway north an additional 225 feet, if needed in the future. If it is extended, the runway would run north across Airport Road, requiring it to close, Treharne said.

The council also approved a zoning ordinance for the airport last week.

Getting the project zoned and the runway completed has been a priority for the city, Treharne said.

The Marion Municipal Airport Committee, a seven-member board appointed by the City Council, is creating a list of capital needs for fiscal 2021.

A capital improvement plan for the airport details improvements to be made over the next few decades.

The plan includes extending the length of the current north-to-south runway from 3,775 to 6,600 feet and building another 5,400-foot runway running east to west.

The extensions would require the city buy more land.

“Any capital projects (for the airport) would be included in the capital improvement plan in the coming years,” Treharne said.

The ordinance states the city is responsible for initial removal of trees, structures and other natural or man-made obstructions. If other natural or man-made structures need to be removed or altered in the future, that will be the landowner’s responsibility.

There are five airport overlay zones. Zone A is closest to the runway end and is to be clear of above-ground obstructions. Zone B is the approach and departure area for the runway. Zone C is the area parallel to the runway and 1,050 feet from the edge of the runway. Zone D extends 10,000 feet from the edge of the runway in an elliptical shape. Zone E, which has the fewest land-use restrictions, extends 4,000 feet from Zone D.

The ordinance details land use restrictions for residential, commercial, industrial, agriculture and parks and recreation activities in each zone.

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With zoning complete, the city will begin working with Linn County to adopt a county zoning ordinance for the airport, Treharne said.

The city bought portions of the airport, including the runway, in 2015. It was previously privately owned.

Comments: (319) 368-8664; grace.king@thegazette.com

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