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Keep property owners in mind

A word of caution is due to the Marion City Council as it contemplates trying to regulate the look, feel and use of downtown properties.

Last week the Council’s Ordinance Committee received 120 proposed regulations for downtown properties from Marion Design Co., an independent design studio established by Indiana Wesleyan University to assist the community. The rules are meant to create a uniform look to the downtown area for current and future businesses.

No doubt Marion Design Co. means well, but the organization is suggesting uniform regulations of very subjective matters involving someone else’s private property. The rules as presented would cover everything from what kind of plants can be placed outside a building (native to Indiana is a requirement, native to Grant County is preferred) to restricting the use of murals as advertisements.

Before the local government makes restrictions on what can and can’t be downtown, all of the property owners need to be on board. We fear handing over the keys to community development to experts who have their ideas of what is good and bad and needed, and who might actually get grant money to pay to make their efforts come to quasi reality. But it doesn’t reach success without buy in from the people who at least should have control of their property.

The people who are trying to remake downtown have turned to the City Council because the local government has the power to enforce development rules. We think the Council should also stand with property owners and protect the property rights of all people in the city.

We think everyone wants to see a vibrant and growing central Marion and, as we have said, now might be our best shot and getting there. But it can’t be manufactured out of thin air by an urban planner with grant money and a dream. Change and progress is an evolution among the people who are invested, in every sense, in our downtown.

By all means the Council should listen but act with caution.