Overall, County did a good jobPosted Wednesday, January 14, 2009, at 10:01 AM
It will be impossible for the proposed new county zoning ordinances to satisfy everyone.
But I have to admit, after reading through them, that it is a much better toolkit for the county to have available in dealing with the increasingly complex growth issues the county is facing.
Will the proposal be modified? Of course. In some cases, the modifications may occur directly as a result of the Jan. 26 hearing. In other cases it will happen when, what looked like a clear definition or policy, turns out to have problems no one ever expected. It is in the nature of any set of laws that people always will try and find the loopholes, ways to "push the envelope" that force additional layers of law to be added. That almost certainly will happen here.
The new ordinances are much better organized than the old ordinances, which had sort of been cobbled together. There are still places where you may have to flip back and forth, to find a definition in one section that you need to understand a policy in another section, but overall it's easier to find things.
When I was going over this with the county staff, I wanted to see how the new ordinances affected the nuclear power plant proposal. There actually were two sections, one on power generation facilities and the other on electrical power generation facilities and neither was clear if they would allow a nuclear plant until you went to the section that defined what those two categories meant (nuclear power would be included under "any other form of power production").
I found it interesting that the current nuclear plant proposal requires both a rezone, and a conditional use (CU) permit, while under the new ordinances they would merely have to seek a CU for the proposal. The developer knew this change was going to be made, and elected to proceed under the old ordinance instead of waiting for the new ordinance. His rezone was denied, however, and he has appealed to the county commissioners. Originally, they set a hearing for February to hear the appeal, but at the developer's request that has now been moved to April 22. By then, the new ordinance is likely to be in place, so that hearing may be moot. Expect to see the next step be the formal application for a CU. Right now, the county only had to decide (and P&Z said "no") as to whether or not it was appropriate to rezone land in the Indian Cove area to heavy industrial use. Technically, it had nothing to do with the nuclear plant. The CU application will force the county to have to actually make a general policy decision on whether or not they want to see a nuclear plant built in Elmore County (and whether or not they like this specific proposal).
But back to the zoning ordinances....
Some elements of the new ordinances actually have been approved in the last couple of years, such as the rules for planned communities, the new towns being proposed in the Mayfield area.
Others are new because things are now much better defined, which is a virtue all in itself.
Like I said before, not everyone is going to like everything in it. Developers aren't going to like some of the extra conditions being imposed on them. Some ag users aren't going to like the fact that there is even a possibility of certain uses being allowed next to them, even if the county would have better control over those uses through the CU or PUD processes.
But, after having read the darn thing, I think it clearly is a better set of laws to deal with the growth issues the county is facing than the old set. It reflects the transitional nature of this country.
At the same time, don't hesitate to let the county know what you like or don't like, or offer any other suggestions for things that should be added or removed. And if they don't make the change right away, stick with it. This isn't going to be written in stone. The county will be making a number of changes over the next year, so you've got a genuine chance to make your case and see it adopted, if not right away, at least eventually.
It's an impressive document, and the members of the planning and zoning commission who worked to develop it deserve high praise.
This stuff is not easy. Putting together a document like this is a massive undertaking and requires a great deal of crystal ball "what ifs." Nobody is ever going to come up with all the "what ifs" that will actually show up, but they've done a good job, especially in expanding the definitions of land uses. This will help with consistency.
Overall, it's a good move forward for the county.
Meanderings of the Managing Editor
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