Archive for Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ag. zoning consideration workshop scheduled

April 30, 2009

The De Soto Planning Commission is taking a step backward in an attempt to make progress in a rural zoning issue that has been before them for nine months.

On Tuesday, planning commissioners tentatively scheduled a workshop on “what a agricultural zoning district would look like,” for Tuesday, May 12, at De Soto City Hall. No time has been set but workshops traditionally start at 6 p.m.

At bottom, the issue is the city’s attempt to fit the large annexation of 1999 into the city’s zoning framework.

As a stipulation to the large annexation the Johnson County Commission approved in 1999, the county’s RUR zoning was maintained on properties annexed into De Soto. It has been a city policy since to require a rezoning to the appropriate city zoning when a property owner with such a zoning makes application to remodel or add a structure.

But during a planning commission last summer, City Attorney Patrick Reavey questioned the legality of that practice.

And a closer examination of the county’s zoning language revealed it stated certain applications had to be made to county officials, who had no authority for properties within the city.

In September 2008, the De Soto City Commission instructed the planning commission to create a rural zoning district that mimicked that of Johnson County.

After some discussion in the planning commission of a possible agricultural rezoning, Planning Commissioners Kevin Honomichl and Roger Templin met with the city council in a workshop. At that meeting, the consensus of the council was not to create a agricultural zoning district out of concern it could be a vehicle to expand agricultural uses within the city.

Since that time, city planning staff and the planning commission have worked on a plan that would allow the 150 landowners affected to request a rezoning for their properties with consideration of the city’s long-term land-use plan. That process was shared with landowners during a series of public meetings.

Planning commissioners agreed Tuesday that process worked on most of the properties and the owners of those smaller properties appeared content with a rezoning to the city’s RO zoning.

However, not all the property owners were pleased with that direction. At a public hearing on the issue last month, they voiced concerns about the possible affect on property taxes of any rezoning, the incentive it would create to prematurely subdivide land and assurances of continued agricultural uses.

With those comments in mind, planning commissioners agreed Tuesday to reconsider a agricultural zoning district. However, it was agreed planning commissioners would have to define where such a zoning would be applicable and why it would be desirable the landowner and the city.

In preparation for Tuesday’s discussion, city planning director Linda Bohnsack provided planning commissioners with a report detailing the agricultural zoning districts in other nearby cities.

Planning Commissioner Mark Crumbaker, an advocate of an agricultural district, noted most of De Soto’s neighbors had agricultural districts and most were used as a holding district to protect larger tracts of land from being excessively subdivided before they were ready to be developed.

But at his last meeting as a planning commissioner, Templin took a different view. Agricultural zoning would be used in the future as an enticement for premature annexations that would require the city to extend services to areas that would provide little tax revenue, he said.

“Property owners outside the city will be told, ‘It’s no big deal. Come on in the city. We have this agricultural zoning,’” he said. “We have fifty miles of road to maintain. Annexation of agricultural land is a disaster for the city.”

With the issue framed, planning commissioners agreed to schedule the March 12 workshop to further consider the need for an agricultural zoning district and its details. The matter will be taken up at the planning commission’s May 26 meeting.

Planning commissioners said they weren’t concerned about the time the issue was taking, considering it grew from an annexation of more than a decade ago.

Bob Zindler, one of about 10 affected residents attending the meeting, said the workshop was a positive sign.

“I think it would be a plus for the city,” he said of an agricultural zoning classification. “It would be a vehicle to keep that land in bigger parcels for future development.”

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