P & Z wants joint meeting with supervisors
The Washington County Planning and Zoning Commission (P & Z) found out during a work session on Tuesday evening that the commissioners’ task to prepare a report on rescinding the county’s zoning ordinance is “uncharted territory.”
Those were the words of zoning administrator Steve Lafaurie. He said ordinances generally are meant to be permanent. He also said their task will not be easy.
The task falls to P & Z at the request of the Washington County Board of Supervisors. Supervisor Stan Stoops is leading the effort to rescind the zoning ordinance. He asked county attorney Larry Brock how to go about doing so.
Brock said that the first thing that needed to be done was to have the board of supervisors ask P & Z to issue a report about the possible repeal of zoning. The supervisors also want that report to be completed 60 days from the date of P & Z’s April 2 meeting. Brock attended the P & Z meeting Tuesday night at the Washington Public Library.
P & Z chairman Don Kline suggested the commission hold a joint meeting with the board of supervisors. He said the commission “needs to know from each supervisor” exactly what the supervisors want with regard to zoning. The other commissioners agreed informally that such a meeting is a good idea.
Kline said that because there are many opinions about zoning from the public that an outside expert could assist the commission to sort through the opinions. He said Gary Taylor of the Iowa State University (ISU) Extension Service has agreed to be that outside expert.
Lafaurie briefed the commission on Taylor, who is an associate professor at ISU and a community and regional planning extension specialist. Lafaurie said Taylor is an attorney and has a master’s degree in community and regional planning from ISU. Taylor has agreed to come to Washington twice to meet with the commission, on April 18 and May 23. Lafaurie said Taylor’s services are free.
Lafaurie suggested that the joint meeting between the supervisors and the commission be set for 7 p.m. April 18 if that is suitable for the supervisors.
Commissioner Ron Andersen said he would like more input from the public about what kind of changes to the zoning ordinance they would like to see.
Kline said that the supervisors have a binder full of e-mails and letters from county residents voicing their opinions about zoning. He said the other commissioners might want to go through the binder, which is available in the Board of Supervisors’ office. Kline also said he has scanned all of the items in the binder. Lafaurie offered to convert the scans into an electronic document that could be e-mailed to the commissioners.
The commissioners would welcome new letters or e-mails from county residents as well.
Other commissioners are also unsure of what the supervisors want to accomplish because there has been talk about a stand-alone reverse setback ordinance from Stoops.
Brock pointed out that rescinding the zoning ordinance would also negate the subdivision ordinance. The zoning ordinance also contains floodplain districts and regulations that would be done away with. He is also concerned about other issues that could arise, including spot zoning.
Brock also said the county would need to have a P & Z commission if the supervisors want to regulate the zoning powers set out in Iowa Code, including those mentioned above.
Commissioner Julie Mangold said she is concerned about the misinformation and inaccuracies about what the public thinks zoning does and doesn’t do. She also wonders if all who oppose zoning have read the ordinance.
Commissioner Rebecca Bush said that she “didn’t appreciate some of the comments in the paper.” She said the commissioners want to do what’s best for the county.
Lafaurie also developed a tentative schedule of additional P & Z work sessions on April 30 and May 23. He also suggested the commission hold a public hearing on May 30. The dates are subject to change at this point.