Ward County community airs opinions on zoning ordinaces

In a three hour meeting, members of the public spoke up on their views of the revised Ward County Zoning Ordinance during its second reading for the county Planning and Zoning Commission Thursday night.

Of special concern for commissioners in the opening discussions were the changes to special use permits and zoning changes. Before, most applicants would have to seek special use permits in order to operate their lots contrary to its zoning. Due to special use permits being admitted on a timeline with the ability to end at the end of that timeline if an extension wasn’t granted special problems arose.

Particular among those was the instance of banks granting loans. It was a risky bet for banks to extend loans to properties using a permit because the structures built on those loans could lose their value or become non-compliant should the permit expire. The revised ordinance code provides for easier inroads to gaining an actual, permanent zoning change for the property in question, alleviating those concerns.

One community member, though, was concerned about zoning ordinances already in place. The man owns a C2 lot, which under the current zoning ordinances includes the allowances for all zoning levels below it, which would be C1, R3, R2, and R1. Ward County Planning and Zoning Administrator Amber Turnquest has worked on the new zoning rules to provide greater gaps between zone definitions.

Most on the commission saw these gaps as a needed improvement, and Chairman Kevin Connole even cited the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, Wednesday night that killed some community members and injured many more as an important lesson in controlling the proximity of zoning and not allowing for industrial zoning like the fertilizer plant to be within residential or commercial areas. The fertilizer plant was close enough to residences to devastated many homes.

Another community member expressed his concern that the zoning ordinance be the best that it can be and offered many, many suggestions and presented problems he had found in the draft, which all the commissioners and their advisors noted in their copies.

Going forward, county engineer Dana Larsen said that he and Turnquest “have some homework to do,” referencing the public input and lengthy discussion by the commission. Although not legally obligated to hold another public hearing before sending the ordinance on to the Ward County Commissioners, it was suggested that their could be another public hearing for this stage and the commissioners seemed receptive to the idea.