Nemaha County Commission: Zoning questions answered
After learning about the importance of comprehensive plans a week ago, the Nemaha County Commissioners welcomed David Breiner, Wabaunsee County Zoning Administrator, to their meeting on Monday, Oct. 7, to learn about zoning. Approximately 20 to 30 county residents were present for the discussion along with Commissioners Gary Scoby, Dennis Henry and Tim Burdiek, and County Clerk Mary Kay Schultejans.
To begin the discussion, Breiner reminded those present that a Kansas county must have a comprehensive plan before developing zoning regulations.
“This [comprehensive plan] is a direction that you want your county to go,” Breiner said. “You have to have this [a comprehensive plan] before you can have [zoning] regulations.”
Breiner said by creating a comprehensive plan, it allows the taxpayers to decide what they want and where they want to see the county go.
“It’s your county and you have to decide how you want it to be run,” Breiner said.
According to Breiner, Wabaunsee County started developing their comprehensive plan in 2000, but it did not get passed until 2004.
Once the comprehensive plan was in place, Wabaunsee County was able to develop their zoning regulations. Breiner further said that the zoning regulations could contain as little or as many regulations as the taxpayers in the county wanted.
“The zoning regulations for Wabaunsee County also include zoning regulations that are imposed by the State of Kansas,” Breiner added. “The zoning laws you create can be more restrictive than the State of Kansas Zoning laws, but not less restrictive.”
First, Nemaha County would need to create a steering committee to begin developing a comprehensive plan. Once a comprehensive plan has been created, it would go to the County’s Planning and Zoning board for approval. Nemaha County currently does not have a Planning and Zoning Board. In order to create this board, Breiner offered a suggestion that worked for Wabaunsee County.
According to Breiner, the planning and zoning commission in Wabaunsee County is made up of people from each city, township district and some at-large. This makes up about a 12 to 14 person committee. Even though the Wabaunsee County planning commission contains those members, Breiner said that the planning commission can be comprised of whoever the county decides and is beneficial to the county as a whole.
“I think it is important that you have a planning commission,” Breiner said. “It makes it to where everyone can have an opinion and have the chance to speak. You need to have people with strength and vision.”
Once zoning regulations have been developed, Breiner said the planning commission will vote on the document and then there is a 14-day waiting period for public input before it is sent to the county commissioners for final approval.
“Once with the county commissioners, it will either be approved, declined or sent back for revisions,” Breiner said. “It is a long process with these issues. I believe it makes the county stronger and makes people work together.”
Lynette Strathman of Bern asked what the process was – once zoning regulations were enacted – to start building something within the county.
Breiner said someone would apply for a building permit or a conditional use permit (CUP) – for a business – and once the application was filled out it would go to the Planning Commission, who would vote on it. If the Planning Commission approved the permit, it would then go to the county commissioners, who would then approve or decline the application.
“If it’s voted down, the person can always reapply,” Breiner said.
As for neighbor notification, Breiner said any neighbor within 1,000 feet of the CUP application will be notified by certified mail, and with a legal notice in the newspaper.
“All landowners will know what is coming before the planning commission to be voted on,” Breiner said.
One patron present asked if the types of building that required a CUP were covered in the comprehensive plan.
“Yes,” Breiner said. “And agriculture is not included in that.”
Commissioner Henry asked whether or not the CUP deters companies from building or expanding in the County.
“I don’t think it deters them, it just makes them do it the right way,” Breiner said.
If Nemaha County implemented county-wide zoning regulations, Schultejans asked Breiner what would happen with the cities in Nemaha County that already had zoning and extraterritorial zoning.
“It would be how you as a county deal with that,” Breiner said. “There is no written law on that. It would be how you determine that for your zoning regulations. Whether they would go away and become part of the county, or whether they would stay with the city would be up to you.”
“Based on the public input received?” Scoby said.
“Yes,” Breiner said.
One patron asked Breiner – in his opinion – if zoning in Wabaunsee County was helpful in protecting agriculture and the property rights of landowners.
“Yes,” Breiner said.
Charity Henry asked whether or not Wabaunsee County ever used public vote on controversial topics, such as zoning.
“No, the commissioners made a decision, and it never went past that,” Breiner said.
To see more of Breiner’s answers to zoning questions, visit our website SabethaHerald.com.