Planning & Zoning - the Real Story
Questions from Tuesday, 10/21
Question: Is Agriculture really exempt?
His Answer: By State Statute 64.890, agriculture is exempt from zoning regulations. If planning & zoning passes in Johnson County, agriculture will not be bound by any zoning restrictions. The statute states, in part: "The provisions of this section shall not apply to the incorporated portions of the county, nor to the raising of crops, livestock, orchards or forestry nor to seasonal or temporary impoundments used for rice farming or flood irrigation ...This section shall not apply to the erection, maintenance, repair, alteration or extension of farm buildings or farm structures used for such purposes.
My Comment: The answer was correct as far as it went. What he didn't say is that the Agriculture exemption only applies to AG zoning - 20 acres and up. Livestock operations on less than 20 acres require a CUP (Addendum, page 1). He also didn't say that the provisions do apply if a farmer erects or uses a building for non-farm purposes (Article 3, para 5.C., page 10) or that a farmer must still get a CUP to run many other types of business from the farm, if the use is not prohibited. (Appendix)
Question: Who can vote in this election & why?
His answer: Everyone in Johnson County, even those living in incorporated areas, can vote on this issue. This is defined by state statute. These people are residents of the county. This was not the decision of the Temporary Planning & Zoning Commission or the Johnson County Commission.
My Comment: Again, what is said is correct. However, the explanation that "This is defined by state statute" ignores the fact that the state statute in question (MRS 64.725) was authored by an advocate of county zoning, Rep. Deleta Williams. The state statute specifically allows already-zoned urban residents to vote on zoning for the rest of the county!
Question: If the voters approve county planning and zoning on Nov. 4, when will it take effect?
His answer: It will take effect immediately. The Temporary County Planning and Zoning Commission will serve until the April election. The permanent board, with a representative from each township, would be elected at that time.
My Comment: Immediately, as stated. This option was put into effect as emergency legislation, again authored by Rep. Williams, to be in time for the cancelled election in April 1997.
Question: What will happen down the road? Can the zoning ordinance be changed?
His answer: Changing the document requires a two-thirds majority of the 15-member Planning and Zoning Commission. The commission made the two-thirds vote of the entire commission a requirement so major changes could not be made by a few members serving on this commission.
My Comment: The answer doesn't mention that the County Commission is the final authority on all changes, that the County Commission can initiate a change, and that the zoning Commission's recommendations do not have to be followed by the County Commission. (Article 7 and Addendum). The actual routing is so complex that the zoning Commissioners aren't sure of the procedure. (Star-Journal, 10/24/97).
Question: If I want my property rezoned, what would I have to do?
His Answer: A request for zoning would have to be turned in to the County Zoning Administrator. All requests received by the administrator must be forwarded to the Planning and Zoning Commission within five (5) working days. The Planning and Zoning Commission would then make a decision and forward its recommendation to the Johnson County Commission. The commissioners would make the decision. f the landowner is not happy with the decision, it may be appealed to a Board of Adjustment.
My Comments: The answer is correct, but vastly oversimplified. Article 7, pages 37 through 39 of the Ordinance and Addendum, gives detailed requirements that must be submitted with the request. The zoning Commission has 60 days to hold a public hearing. The landowner must also provide a list of all landowners within 1,000 feet, along with their addresses and the legal descriptions of their properties, and mail them a copy of the meeting notice. Then, whatever the recommendation of the Zoning Commission, the change must be approved by the County Commission. The Board of Adjustment is appointed by the County Commission. Applicants also have the right to appeal all decisions in Circuit Court. Here's what must be submitted with a request: a legal description of the property, a scaled map showing the property's location, the applicant's name and contact information and interest in the property, the owner's name and address, description of current and proposed use and zoning, area of property in SF or acres, time schedule for development and detailed site plans as required by the nature of the change.