Marion City Council agrees to meet with community forums

This year, the Marion City Council will again meet with residents and neighborhood leaders in their communities.

Last year, the City Council held regular meetings with the community forums for both West Marion and Marion East. This allowed city officials to hear more from the leaders with those forums and gave the residents of those communities a greater opportunity to talk with their elected council members and the mayor.

On Tuesday, the City Council agreed to hold their regular June 4 meeting with the West Marion community at Addie’s Chapel United Methodist Church. A similar meeting will take place in September with the Marion East Community Forum.

In addition, the City Council heard a presentation from Stephen Sparks, corridor development engineer with the N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT). Sparks talked about how the DOT prioritizes projects for roads and streets in North Carolina.

City Manager Bob Boyette said the 2020-2029 Draft State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) already has a list of projects for in and around Marion. They are projected for construction within the next few years.

The future projects, according to the STIP document, are listed as follows and are subject to change.

Highway Projects

• Sugar Hill Road - Replacement of bridge over Interstate 40 and widening of road from I-40 to Pilot Travel Center. Scheduled for right of way acquisition in 2019-2020 and construction beginning in 2019-2020.

• Rutherford Road - Widening of road to three lanes between Georgia Avenue and U.S. 221 Bypass and installation of curb and gutter. Scheduled for right of way acquisition in 2019-2020 and construction beginning in 2021-2022.

• U.S. 221 - Widening of highway to four lanes between I-40 and Goose Creek Road - Scheduled for right of way acquisition in 2021-2022 and 2022-2023, with construction set to begin in 2024-2025.

Other highway projects have been submitted, but not yet approved for funding, including the widening of U.S. 221 between the bypass and I-40 and the widening of U.S. 221 South from Goose Creek Road southward.

The DOT’s list also has some approved bicycle and pedestrian projects. They include a sidewalk for the east side of Baldwin Avenue (from Perry Street to at least State Street), the third phase of the Catawba River Greenway (from U.S. 70 to Resistoflex Road) and the Peavine Trail (from State Street to College Drive), according to information from Boyette.

“Other bicycle and pedestrian projects have been submitted, but not yet approved for funding, including the construction of a sidewalk on Sugar Hill Road between Shady Lane and I-40 and the construction of a sidewalk on North Main Street and U.S. 70 West from Logan Street to West McDowell Middle School Road,” he said.

After hearing the presentation, Mayor Pro Tem Billy Martin said he would like to see more lights installed at the I-40 exits in Marion, such as the one on N.C. 226 South near Love’s Travel Plaza and McDowell Tech and the other on Sugar Hill Road near the Walmart Supercenter.

During the meeting, council members heard a report from Boyette about the growth in retail sales.

“There was another great month of retail sales in McDowell County in February, with growth of 16.2% over the same time in 2018, compared to growth of 9.1% across the state in the same time period,” he said.

Through the first eight months of 2018-2019, taxable retail sales in McDowell County have increased by 9.8%, or more than $23.1 million, over the same time period in 2017-2018. Taxable retail sales across North Carolina for the first eight months of 2018-19 grew by 7.2% over the same time in 2017-2018. Between 2005 and 2018, taxable retail sales in McDowell County grew by 62.6%, compared to growth across North Carolina as a whole of 43.0% during this time period, according to Boyette.

“With more new businesses set to open in the next few months, local retail sales will hopefully continue to increase,” he said to council.

In other business on Tuesday, the Marion City Council:

• Received the award for Marion being a Tree City USA during the past 30 years.

• Approved the rental of the Community Building for the Child Evangelism Fellowship at the lower rate that is given for civic clubs. The Child Evangelism Fellowship will hold events at the Community Building on May 17 and 18, June 21, Sept. 21 and Nov. 8 and 9.

• Held a public hearing about a change in the zoning rules regarding tobacco, vaping and CBD shops. After hearing no comments from the public, council adopted an amendment to list tobacco shops, vape shops and CBD shops in the city’s zoning ordinance. Such stores will be permitted in the C-2 General Business District, where all such shops have chosen to locate.

• Adopted the city’s local water supply plan.

• Appointed Councilman Don Ramsey to be a voting delegate and Boyette to be an alternate for the N.C. League of Municipalities Conference in Hickory May 15 through May 16.

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