Marshall residents say no to zoning rules

MARSHALL – They asked for feedback, and they got plenty of it.

There was a full gallery at Tuesday’s Marshall City Council meeting. Many of those present were gathered to oppose possible updates to city zoning ordinances, which included regulations on topics from gardens and landscaping to the outside appearance of commercial buildings. After hearing residents’ concerns, council members voted to send the zoning proposal back to the drawing board.

Marshall City Administrator Ben Martig started off a public hearing with background on the proposed ordinances. Zoning ordinances can be used to help promote safety, preserve property values or maintain community standards, he said. Marshall’s current ordinances regarding building appearance and landscaping have been unchanged since 1976 and are mostly geared toward preventing nuisance complaints, he said.

Martig said city staff took a look at updating the ordinances for a number of reasons, including taking into account changes in state law about building variances, the creation of Marshall’s downtown district and the need for clarifications on certain terms. The proposal brought before the city council earlier this month had been reviewed several times by the city Planning Commission and Legislative and Ordinance Committee, as well as at a prior public hearing.

The new proposed ordinances included regulations on the size and location of vegetable gardens on a residential property, minimum guidelines for trees and landscaping on residential and commercial properties, acceptable building materials and styles for commercial properties and limits on the length of garage sales.

Martig said the proposed landscaping ordinances would not be applied to existing properties, just new construction. The ordinances would be enforced through the building permit review process, or if complaints were made about a particular property.

Martig said he realized issues like landscaping and building appearance were “very subjective in nature” and encouraged members of the public to weigh in. He said some proposals, like requirements on the location of trees in a yard and a prohibition on brick buildings being painted, had been dropped based on feedback from city council members.

A total of 10 Marshall residents gave comment at the hearing. Most were emphatic that the zoning ordinances went too far.

“There are so many things I see wrong with this,” said Mike Dulas. “We just don’t need that much government in our community.”

Dulas said the regulations on building appearances and outdoor storage were biased against certain types of businesses and created obstacles for new businesses in town. Other residents said the regulations were an intrusion into their homes and properties.

Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce Director Cal Brink said he had also received comments and concerns that the proposals would make it harder to do business in Marshall. On one hand, Brink said, the point of the proposed ordinances wasn’t to immediately transform the town.

“It’s about changing what Marshall looks like 20 or 30 years from now,” he said. But at the same time, he said the ordinances shouldn’t be so extreme that the city comes to regret them five years from now.

Council member Glenn Bayerkohler said he thought that public feedback could be used to come up with a more agreeable set of ordinances.

“It’s a work in progress,” Bayerkohler said of the proposal. “I don’t think it’s all or nothing.” City staff had been accommodating of people’s comments so far, he said.

After the close of the public hearing, council member John DeCramer moved to table the proposed ordinances until city staff could workshop them and bring them back to the council for discussion. The motion passed unanimously.

Martig also encouraged Marshall residents interested in the zoning proposal to go to the city website,, and access the city council’s paperless meeting software. Full copies of the ordinances being discussed, as well as detailed council meeting agendas and minutes, are posted there.