Just four signatures could be enough to scuttle the county’s plans to buy the former Straub International building, unless Marion city council chooses to overrule them.
A petition filed Feb. 15 opposing rezoning of the Straub parcel for governmental use included signatures of owners of four surrounding properties, the minimum needed to temporarily negate the planning and zoning board’s Feb. 2 approval.
The county’s plan to relocate road and bridge operations to the Straub property could still proceed if four of five city council members vote Monday to approve the zoning change from commercial to governmental use.
Failure to obtain the zoning change would void the county’s contract to purchase the property.
While objections voiced at the Feb. 2 meeting focused on environmental issues, petitioners raised economic objections, spelling out losses in property tax revenue and payroll opportunity lost from not recruiting a business for the property.
“I felt other businesses would have a better chance to come into Marion because of the building,” property owner Harvey Sanders said. “There’s more of a chance for a new business to come into the Straub building and pay more taxes than what the county will pay.”
Annual property taxes of $16,656.90 would disappear if the county buys the parcel. Petitioners calculate losses of $5,493.86 to the city, $4,046.89 to USD 408, and $899.76 to Hospital District No. 1, and the county itself would lose $5,336.11. Additional losses of $880.28 were not detailed in the petition.
Another objection in the petition was that the city would forego an estimated $839,000 in wages and benefits if a business with 20 employees making $15 an hour could be recruited to occupy the property. A business with 10 such employees would bring in $419,500 in wages and benefits, petitioners claimed.
Commissioners want the Straub location as a cost-effective alternative to possible consolidation of road and bridge, noxious weed, hazardous materials collection, and transfer station operations to county property on 180th Rd., which would require extensive construction.
Proposals to move hazardous materials and transfer station operations to the Straub site were axed by planning and zoning board prior to approving the proposed zoning change.
At their last meeting, city council members denied the county’s request for a special meeting to speed up the approval process by choosing not to put it to a vote.
The opposition petition was filed two days later, including qualifying signatures from Sanders, Kevin and Tina Steele, Barry and Wendy Mai, and Dick and Margie Schwartz. Fifteen other property owners were eligible to sign, but whether they were contacted about it or not is was undetermined as of press time.