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Plan Zoning Commission talks future, growth

Kendig-Keast Collaborative presented plans to make Marshalltown’s zoning codes simpler to use for staff and for the public to understand during a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Thursday.

City planner Caleb Knutson and Housing and Urban Development Director Michelle Spohnheimer have been meeting with the firm based out of Indiana since the fall. Representatives from the firm have also been meeting with community stakeholders and examining the city’s zoning ordinances and plans to create a comprehensive plan.

“Your comprehensive plan is the backbone for the planning effort of the city,” said Brian Mabry, principal-in-charge with Kendig-Keast.

Mabry noted the distinct differences between a comprehensive plan and zoning ordinances, which he said often cause confusion. The comprehensive plan is a broad policy which gives direction for how the city aims to meet its growth and development goals. Zoning ordinances are a more specific set of laws which are backed by penalties for violations.

One of the larger goals of the comprehensive plan is to expand and retain business, thus expanding the city’s tax base.

Among the best practices for cities looking to grow is encouraging redevelopment, Mabry said. This includes making use of vacant lots by using their existing infrastructure.

“Redevelopment makes a lot of sense economically and environmentally,” he said.

Mabry discussed infilling vacant lots with housing options that meet some housing needs which may be missing, notably multi-unit housing.

The plan also includes maintaining greenspace and the inclusion of new parks and trails by offering incentives to landowners to leave some land untouched. This can make adjacent housing more attractive.

“We want to make this one of the more user friendly codes in the state,” Mabry said. “We want to minimize confusion that comes along with zoning ordinances as much as possible. Really the ordinance isn’t just posted on the city’s website. The ordinance is a website. It will have a lot of functionality to make it a user friendly experience.”

Between now and September, Kendig-Keast will submit a draft of ordinances to the city. In September and October, public hearings will be held on the draft, comments will be received and it will be published. Then between October and January the ordinance will be reviewed and adopted.

The second item on the meeting’s agenda was zoning ordinance amendments. Spohnheimer said some needed changes to the traditional neighborhood district language was discovered. The need to make changes became apparent when in development discussions on McFarland Clinic’s new facility.

“We recognized the language doesn’t fit with some of these larger development concepts,” Spohnheimer said.

Spohnheimer said there are a few options to remedy the situation. Because the McFarland Clinic project start date is coming closer, one of the options she presented was rezoning the property so to not hold up the project. Commission member Jon Boston voiced support for this plan and Steve Valbracht agreed.

The commission decided to hold a public hearing during a March 11 meeting to move ahead on making necessary changes.

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Contact Joe Fisher at

jfisher@timesrepublican.com.

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