Government

Marion zoning map update aims to have 'a place for everyone'

City hosting open houses to answer resident questions, concerns

MARION — Marion’s zoning map is being updated for the first time in almost 50 years.

The zoning map reflects a new code that was approved last year to support public improvement projects, new businesses and residential developments.

“Zoning is one of many steps, but is a key part to drive development where we really need it,” said Dave Hockett, principal planner for the city of Marion.

The amended zoning map incorporates 10 new zoning districts, including traditional low-density single-family, medium-density single family, two-family and four-family residential districts and uptown 1, uptown 2 and urban transition commercial districts.

When the process of creating new zoning districts and a map began three years ago, Hockett and another city planner drove around town to note what already exists.

The new code reflects trends in development and creates protections for the most historic parts of the community, Hockett said.

The city is hosting open houses to introduce the new zoning map to the public and answer questions.

Nicole Behrens, a city planner, said residents who have attended the open houses so far have had questions about how the new map would affect their property.

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Residents who own businesses or are looking to develop on property in Marion want to make sure they can proceed with their plans under the new zoning districts and that their investment is protected, Behrens said.

The zoning districts will allow for “orderly development and redevelopment,” Hockett said.

The zoning map wasn’t created to make major change. Instead, it will create more flexibility for development of “raw ground” and create new design standards that don’t exist today, Hockett said.

Houses in older residential areas around Marion Square Park, for example — which stretches 10 blocks in any direction — were built on small lots, Hockett said. The four new districts in that part of town reduce setbacks.

“It encourages development to come back up to the street, porches to come out and creates that old, traditional neighborhood everyone is familiar with in metro areas,” Hockett said.

Developers looking to move into Marion also will know what could go up around them based on the zoning districts.

Existing non-conforming businesses will be allowed to continue where they currently are located, but if they close or move the property will be required to conform to the new zoning map, Hockett said.

Hockett said officials are trying to account for “everything under the sun.”

“There’s a place for everyone in Marion,” he said.

Norm Kelley, a resident who has lived in Marion for 47 years, attended an open house Tuesday to see if the zoning map will affect plans he has for his property.

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Kelley, who lives on the northwest side of Marion, said the reduced setbacks could benefit his plans to add an addition to his house.

Carol Golden has been a Marion resident for 46 years and is a Zoning Board member. She said she likes that Marion is working on developing commercial districts while maintaining the small-town feel.

“I hope we can keep all aspects of the city working together, so we have growth,” she said.

The city is hosting two more open houses for residents to ask questions and voice concerns about the zoning map update. Open houses are on Thursday, Oct. 24, at Hills Bank, 3202 Seventh Ave. from 5 to 6:30 p.m., and Tuesday, Oct. 29, at Lowe Park Arts & Environment Center from 5 to 7 p.m.

Questions also can be directed to the Community Development Department at 319-743-6320.

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

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