P & Z wants zoning retained
The Washington County Planning & Zoning Commission (P & Z) unanimously approved its report on the impact of rescinding the county’s zoning ordinance to the Washington County Board of Supervisors. The decision was made following a public hearing held Thursday night at the Washington Public Library.
The report recommends that the supervisors retain the zoning ordinance and according to P & Z administrator Steve Lafaurie, it contains “10 issues of concern.” However on page five of the seven-page document, are four additional concerns/recommendations. Several supporting documents will accompany the report.
Before asking for public comment, county attorney Larry Brock offered his opinion on the “Effect of Repeal of Washington County Zoning Ordinance on Washington County’s Sexually Themed Businesses Ordinance.” His opinion was in written form, but he also spoke about his opinion for several minutes. His opinion also states that the commission asked him for his opinion.
Washington County adopted a sexually themed businesses ordinance in 2006 because there was a concern in the county that such a business was being planned. This ordinance predates the zoning ordinance that went into effect July 1, 2010.
Brock said that the county’s stand-alone ordinance is nearly identical to an ordinance that was the subject of an Iowa Supreme Court decision.
Brock’s opinion states, “On July 27, 2012, the Iowa Supreme Court held that a city ordinance regulating nude and seminude dancing was pre-empted by state law and was therefore unenforceable.” Mall Real Estate LLC brought the lawsuit against the city of Hamburg.
While Washington County’s Sexually Themed Businesses Ordinance would likely not be upheld in court, the county’s zoning ordinance restricts where such a business could be located.
“The map that was actually generated as to where it could be located,” Brock said, “was very restricted.”
Commissioner Layne Twinam asked Lafaurie if he had received any requests for this type of business.
“Just one, which was about six weeks ago,” Lafaurie said.
He said a Johnson County realtor asked if the county has any regulations regarding gentlemen’s clubs.
“I said, ‘What’s a gentleman’s club?’” Lafaurie said. “He told me what it was and I went, ‘we do have regulations in our zoning ordinance and in a stand-alone ordinance.’”
Lafaurie said this kind of business is a permitted use in the industrial zone and a conditional use permit in a commercial zone could be requested.
The commission approved a motion to add Brock’s written opinion to the report.
There were 21 people in the audience, including county supervisors Ron Bennett and Jack Seward Jr. and county auditor Dan Widmer. Eleven audience members commented on the report.
One of the speakers was a member of the county’s Zoning Commission that drafted the zoning ordinance, Steve Swaffer. He said that while he can see some good in zoning, the Zoning Commission “from the get-go” didn’t listen to the people. He also said that three of the supervisors elected in 2012 advocated eliminating zoning.
A former supervisor Wilfred Vittetoe described Washington County as a “progressive county.” He hopes the county doesn’t go back to the “dark ages” by rescinding zoning. He hopes the current supervisors will find some “wiggle room for compromise.”
After closing the public hearing, commissioner Randy Billips told the crowd, “I understand all of what you’re saying.”
He said there are things in the ordinance that need to be changed, but also that the county does need zoning. He also said that regardless of what the commission recommends, he knows the board of supervisors will vote to rescind zoning.
Billips made the motion to approve the report. Ron Andersen seconded the motion, which was approved unanimously.
Lafaurie said that he should be able to have the report done in time for the supervisors’ June 4 meeting.
P & Z chairman Don Kline said he will attend the supervisors’ meeting and will bring the report with him.
The report is available on Washington County’s Web site. Go to <co.washington.ia.us>. Under Important Links, click on Planning & Zoning, then click on *P&Z Commission Report to Board Re: Rescinding Zoning.*
The Board of Supervisors will meet at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, June 4, in the Board of Supervisors Room in the county courthouse. The 9:50 a.m . agenda item is “Presentation/acknowledgment of Planning and Zoning report regarding rescinding zoning.”