Planning commissioners urged to ‘think like farmers’ on ag zoning
John Anderson III had advice Tuesday for the De Soto Planning Commission as it considered the issue of a agricultural zoning classification that has been on its plate for more than a year.
“Think like a farmer,” Anderson told planning commissioners.
Anderson's comments made at a public hearing on the proposed creation of an agricultural zoning classification city planner Linda Bohnsack presented this month to the planning commission didn't prompt planning commission action on the zoning Tuesday. Instead, Bohnsack will further refine the document to address issues of accessory structures identified by planning commissioners and provide a better understanding of what agricultural activities state law allows cities to regulate.
The document with its supporting definitions and appendixes attempts to regulate what would be the city's rural agricultural, or RA, zoning's uses. State law forbids cities from preventing existing agricultural uses on properties in incorporated areas unless there has been a 12-month interruption of the uses.
It would define those uses that would be allowed, which would require a special use permit and those that would be prohibited on RA properties. Regularly allowed uses include crop and animal production. Among the prohibited activities would be large-scale livestock production involving feedlots, enclosed pig or poultry operations.
Still, planning commissioners identified gray areas where agricultural uses slide into commercial applications. One troublesome application was boarding.
Planning commissioner Mark Crumbaker said many property owners boarded horses for friends for perhaps a little profit. But at some point, the number of animals would have an effect on neighbors and require regulation, he said.
“It's a question of scale,” he said. “Don't be afraid to make distinctions on questions of scale. For example, the threshold for boarding could be five horses.”
Bohnsack also suggested RA regulations on accessory structures and setbacks be the same as those in the city's RO zoning, its least restrictive zoning.
It was much to this point that Anderson, whose family owns 700 acres in eastern De Soto, addressed his comments. Farmers wouldn't setback fences RO's required 150 feet from the centerline of a public property line, he said. Nor did RO's limit of two accessory buildings per property make sense on a working farm, he said.
The size and number of would be determined by the farming operating, Anderson said.
Planning commissioners John Krudwig and Kevin Honomichl, who had already suggested some relaxation of the limits on building number and sizes for RA zoning, said economics would determine those factors.
It was agreed RO regulations should be applied to RA properties of 10 acres or less, but that there be recommendations for more and bigger buildings on larger plots. It was suggested Bohnsack review what Johnson County and other cities allows in their rural zoning.
In addition, staff was directed to more thoroughly define agricultural uses the state exempts from city regulation.
The planning commission will next meet Sept. 22.