Some rural zoning issues caused a bit of a stir at the Butler County Commission meeting on Tuesday morning. A zoning classification change on a property, located just north of the intersection of SW 170th and SW Boyer Road, was a source of some controversy for surrounding neighbors in the area.

Some rural zoning issues caused a bit of a stir at the Butler County Commission meeting on Tuesday morning. A zoning classification change on a property, located just north of the intersection of SW 170th and SW Boyer Road, was a source of some controversy for surrounding neighbors in the area.

“This zoning change is required in order for the Nelson’s to request the lot split on their property,” said Director of Community Development David Alfaro. “This rezoning passed the county’s planning and zoning commission with a 5-1 vote. Commissioner Mark Suddith had a concern that basically changing an Ag-80 zoned property to an Ag 40 would set a precedence that the county didn’t want to start.”

The commission was concerned about setting the same precedence.

“If we do it this way this time, would it change future policies?” asked Commissioner Peggy Palmer. “Would everyone in the county suddenly want to jump and do this too?”

“Each application that is submitted to the county for rezoning or a lot split is based upon its own merit,” explained Alfaro. “What we are doing is still going to restrict 120 to the possibility of only two home sites. There will be no precedent set here.”

Some commissioners continued to struggle with the idea of the smaller lot despite the small lots surrounding the area.

“I am struggling with this one,” explained Commissioner Mike Wheeler. “We’re trying to preserve our agricultural land. I realize we have some smaller parcels around that area, but what’s to say the land owner is not going to sell it off and develop it?”

“There are quite a few smaller tracts in the area, but they’re all prior to the zoning regulations,” added Commissioner Jeff Masterson.

The landowner chose to speak in order to clarify the intentions with the land.

“When we bought this piece of land, it was only overgrown pasture,” began Mike Nelson. “We cut down a lot of cedar and thorny bushes and we burned off unwanted brush. Some of the fence was in very bad condition. We had a collapsed well on the property and we came in and rebuilt it.

“The plan with the property is to allow our son to build a house on the lot to be split off. We have 316 bales of hay in the area west of the barn. It is even a possibility that our granddaughter may have a horse. Our intent is to keep the wildlife out there and let our grandkids fish in the pond. We want them to learn to enjoy the peace and quiet that comes with living out of town. Our only intent with this split is to build two custom homes on the property.”

“The Ag 40 and the Ag 80 zonings have the same purpose,” explained Alfaro. “If the owners wanted to change the intent for the property, they would have to go through this whole process again and it would get shut down by the planning commission and this commission pretty quickly.”

“I feel a little conflicted about this,” began Commissioner Ed Myers. “I generally support these type of lot splits. I believe people should have a lot of flexibility with their own property. The main thing seems to be the requester wants to be able to arrange things so that there is a 30-acre APO (Agricultural Preservation Overlay) instead of the normal 80. I’ve noticed a number of the neighboring landowners have expressed concerns about this. I would prefer to see this revisited by the planning committee because I’m not prepared to support this as it stands.”

The commission began to consider the lot size of the area.

“If this was pushed out to the east or to the south where there are much larger lots continuously, the staff would agree we don’t want to go to the Ag 40 instead of the Ag 80. We want to maintain the integrity of what’s already there, but this action will not increase the density by any means. We will be looking at only two houses on 120 acres.”

“There are a dozen lots in this area that are only 12 acres,” said Masterson. “I guess I don’t really understand the opposition.”

Neighboring landowner John Rierson chose to address the commission.

“This change will be setting a precedent,” began John. “I think the county in this area will soon have a flooding of people. By doing this re-zoning, you’re going to open the country to rural development. There was a reason for past commissioners to put these zoning steps in place. They considered everything including the fire service, ambulance service and school bus service. The farther you get away from the city, the larger tracts you see and there is a reason for that.”

Alfaro chose to address one specific comment directly.

“This action would not make it possible to build multiple homes on a 40 acre lot,” said Alfaro. “In order for the owner to do that, they would have to change the zoning to a residential estate. The action would be shot down by the planning commission and they would not make that recommendation at all.”

Neighbor Mike Rierson also stood to address the commissioners.

“I own 240 acres on the east side of this lot and another 480 just across the road,” began Mike. “I think we need to respect what the commissioners zoned as Ag 80 because they did this for a purpose. If you give him 10 acres, does that mean I can have 10 acre plots too? Can I have 24 10-acre plots across the road? There’s no guarantee that this 10 acres might not be sold to someone else. We’d like to keep it like it is. We don’t want town out there. I don’t think you should be breaking it up.”

Not all commissioners were overly pleased with the APO.

“I don’t like the look of the APO,” said Wheeler. “My recommendation would be to send this back to the planning commission.”

“I would have no trouble at all supporting this thing in an instant if there was not also the request to change the zoning,” said Myers.

“They wouldn’t need an APO to build one house on the property,” explained County Administrator Will Johnson. “They would need the zoning in order to build two structures. One with an Ag 40 and the other with an Ag 80.”

“Look at everything around this area,” said Commissioner Dan Woydziak. “We have a precedence there already. As commissioners, we try to place a balance into what’s going on. There is going to be a lot of thought process with his. A lot of the people who have signed this petition have been on my back before for telling them what they can or cannot do on their land. We don’t take these types of decisions lightly.”

“This matter is right in line with what the commission has been currently doing,” said Johnson.

“This will not set a precedence,” said Alfaro. “We look at the surrounding area and the zonings before a decision is made in these types of matters.”

“This is why the county was zoned,” said Myers. “We’re trying to preserve the rural areas and they can be destroyed with the lot splits.”

“So we’re planning on sending this issue back to the planning commission solely so they can deny his request?” questioned Masterson.

“If the commission does not offer any change or new information for the planning commission, they will send it right back here,” said Johnson.

“I fail to see how we’re setting a precedence,” said Masterson. “Worse case scenario, if Mr. Nelson is not telling us the full truth, he could only have two houses on this property. He will be locked into two residences. In the interest of moving forward, I move to approve the change in zoning from Ag 80 to Ag 40.”

The motion was carried 3-2 with Myers and Wheeler opposing.

When the commission moved on to consider the lot split request of the Nelsons for the same property, they were met with certain stipulations.

“The county clerk did receive a protest petition on the lot split,” explained Alfaro. “It exceeds the 20 percent surrounding landowners stipulation, so a super majority of the commissioners will be required to approve it.”

“If the lot split fails, the owners will still be able to build two houses on the property,” said Masterson.

“If this fails, the landowners would probably not be able to find a bank that would mortgage the property because of their acreage limits,” said Johnson. “Most banks require a five- to 10-acre lot. Where the commission is at now is the approval of the lot split and the designation of the APO.”

“It’d be easier for the financial issues if we received the lot split,” explained Nelson. “We can work around that if we have to.”

“Regardless of what we vote on this issue, the landowner will be able to build two houses,” said Wheeler.

“The APO is going to be more restrictive for the landowner than just using the 40 acres,” said Johnson. “In they APO, they will never be able to do anything construction wise there. If I were an adjacent landowner, I would want the APO in place.”

“I think it needs to be understood, if you want the APO to be on the property, it needs to be a 4-1 vote,” said Alfaro.

Woydziak moved to approve the mortgage lot split and the motion was approved 4-1 with Wheeler opposing.

The commission also:

• approved a request by Kirby Waggoner for a change in classification from the AG-40 to RE (Residential Estate) classification on property located east of the corner of SW Spring Road and SW 70th Street.

• approved a request for a homestead lot split with APO on 80 acres of a 159.7 acre tract on the SW corner of SE 30th for James Douty.

 

Kari Adams can be reached at kadams@butlercountytimesgazette.com.