MARION

Marion council pivots vision for airport after hearing community concerns

Rezoning process proceeds for existing runway

Jeff Jordan (left), who farms with his son, Spencer Jordan (right), are seen June 5 at the top of their tallest grain storage bin, which measures 65 feet high, outside of Marion. The Jordans are among airport neighbors concerned that proposed airspace rules for the Marion Airport will hinder their ability to add machinery to their farm as their business grows. Tuesday, the Marion City Council stepped back from a larger land use and rezoning effort envisioning a second runway, and voted to pursue zoning related to an existing runway. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Jeff Jordan (left), who farms with his son, Spencer Jordan (right), are seen June 5 at the top of their tallest grain storage bin, which measures 65 feet high, outside of Marion. The Jordans are among airport neighbors concerned that proposed airspace rules for the Marion Airport will hinder their ability to add machinery to their farm as their business grows. Tuesday, the Marion City Council stepped back from a larger land use and rezoning effort envisioning a second runway, and voted to pursue zoning related to an existing runway. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

MARION — After hearing neighbors express concerns, the Marion City Council decided Tuesday to pivot on long-term plans for expanding the municipal airport.

Council members decided to proceed with laying the groundwork for limited work on an existing runway, but did not proceed with future plans that entail broader zoning restrictions.

Council members were faced Tuesday with voting to amend the comprehensive plan to allow for airport and airport overlay zoning and directing city staff to start the rezoning process. The rezonings are a requirement of a $475,000 state grant to help widen the current runway from 32 to 60 feet.

The zonings were designed to allow the extension and widening of the current north/south runway, and also the addition of a second east/west crosswinds runway in the future. Those goals were outlined in the Airport Layout Plan, which was passed in 2017.

The total cost of the originally-planned widening and extension of the north/south runway to 5,600 feet from 3,775 feet and adding lighting is estimated at about $4 million. The Airport Layout Plan called for that 5,600-foot extension, which would affect a surrounding trail.

Tuesday, the council amended the resolutions to consider rezoning for only the north/south runway and to limit that runway to 4,000 feet, which would not affect the trail.

“What it will provide is the ability for larger aircraft to land,” said Thomas Treharne, the community development director.

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Council member Will Brandt voted against the revision. He previously said he supported the original Airport Layout Plan’s rezoning requirements to protect the land around the airport for its future expansion. Mayor Nick AbouAssaly abstained from the vote.

“From my standpoint, I’m fine with the current one but I would certainly support, if others supported, going to 4,000 but probably not beyond that at the current stage,” said council member Steve Jensen.

Landowners and residents who would fall under the airport overlay zone expressed concerns whether the proposed height and use restrictions could affect grain elevators on their farms and what the environmental impacts might be, among others issues.

However, many of the properties that would be rezoned under the original plan still would be affected by height and use restrictions under the revised approach.

The city previously had no airport zones because the facility was on county land before Marion bought it in 2015.

Some council members expressed concern Tuesday over the size of the full airport build-out called for in the plan and whether it should be a priority for the city in the next few decades.

The comprehensive plan amendment vote had been tabled at a June 20 meeting after a roughly two-hour hearing.

During that hearing, council members also heard from supporters arguing a larger airport would benefit the economy and aviators.

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Treharne told council members they could consider amending the Airport Layout Plan at a later date. But moving forward with the rezoning process would help get the widening started.

The state grant still would be available of the rezoning is approved.

l Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

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