Already a subscriber? Log in
- Unparalleled business coverage of the Iowa City / Cedar Rapids corridor.
- Immediate access to subscriber-only content on our website.
- 26 issues per year delivered digitally, in print or both.
- Support locally owned and operated journalism.
Even as the Marion City Council approved the final consideration of an ordinance imposing a one-year moratorium on certain types of commercial development in some of the city’s fastest-growing areas, Mayor Nick AbouAssaly sought to clarify the moratorium’s scope and intent. “There's been a little bit of misunderstanding about what the moratorium means,” Mr. AbouAssaly said as the council considered the new, temporary ordinance. “It's been misperceived as a permanent decision on certain types of businesses and where they can go. The moratorium is simply a halt on new projects during a limited period of time. It's not changing anything in the law. It's just allowing us to consider specific uses and if any adjustments need to be made to the application of the zoning code when it comes to certain uses in particular areas. “The end result may be that nothing changes,” he added.”This is just a pause that allows us to look at our comprehensive plan, update that and then see if any adjustments need to be made in the zoning code.” The measure, unanimously approved by the council Nov. 9, imposes a one-year moratorium on certain types of commercial development along portions of Tower Terrace Road, Highway 13, and the Central Corridor business district in Marion. In council documents, city officials say the moratorium “aims to strike a balance between economic progress and safeguarding the well-being of communities and the environment, ultimately promoting responsible and sustainable development practices.” Council member Steve Jensen agreed, noting that while the moratorium is a short-term measure, it’s intended to position the city for responsible growth in the long term. “We're taking (this) pause so that … everybody here can look back in another 10 or 20 years and say we did it the right way,” Mr. Jensen said. The council has stressed that the moratorium is not absolute and that exceptions can be made in certain circumstances, particularly for existing businesses looking to expand or modify their operations. Amendments are also possible as the moratorium unfolds. Council member Sara Mentzer asked about the procedure for those amendments, and city manager Ryan Waller said the city will “map out the process and the timing” for those considerations. One specific use already being considered for possible amendment concerns “artist live-work” spaces, which would be part of the moratorium along Highway 13 and the Central Corridor. In those spaces, an artist maintains a business in one portion of a building and lives in a separate portion of the same building. “We already know one item definitely needs to get changed, and that is the wording of artist live-work,” Mr. Jensen said. The Marion commercial development moratorium affects a total of 361 properties in the three development areas, city officials said, and will automatically expire after a year unless specifically renewed by the council. Several types of commercial development are specifically mentioned in the moratorium, ranging from auto service and repair shops, gas stations, car washes, pawn shops, liquor and tobacco shops, deep discount stores, and commercial and residential storage units. The council also approved an amendment Oct. 5 to include grocery stores in the moratorium, though several council members expressed differing opinions on that specific use. “This is not taken lightly,” Mr. AbouAssaly said just before the moratorium vote was taken. “We're trying to improve the city and create a great environment for everyone. There's never any intention to hurt any business. We've made lots of investments to encourage business and to support business. And again, this is no permanent change being taken by this decision tonight. It’s to allow a review so that we could see if any adjustments need to be made, and that we're not creating negative situations through our zoning code.”