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To zone or not to zone

Posted 6/15/11 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

While McKenzie County has not had zoning laws for 100 years, the McKenzie County Board of County Commissioners is wondering if now is not the time for them to rethink that policy.
“Our policy of having no zoning has worked well for us in the past,” states Dale Patten, McKenzie County commissioner. “But right now, I’m not sure if that is an appropriate policy for us going forward.”
The county commissioners know full well that zoning is not something that many of the county residents will welcome, but the board has also heard from other citizens of the county who are concerned with the impact on their land caused by  the flurry of development occurring as a result of energy development.
In order for the commissioners to get a better feel of the county residents’ thoughts and concerns on the subject of zoning and land use planning, the board will be holding a pair of public input meetings on June 22 and 27. The June 22 meeting will be held in the Watford City Civic Center, while the June 27 meeting will be held at the Cartwright Hall. Both meetings will be from 7 to 9 p.m.
The commissioners, according to Patten, decided that now is the time to broach the subject of zoning and land use planning on a countywide basis because of all of the zoning issues around Watford City, Alexander and Arnegard.
“Many of the developers who are coming into the county want to know what the rules are,” comments Patten. “Right now, we don’t have any local rules established by the county. There may be state rules regarding the development of septic and sewer systems, but the county really doesn’t have anything regulating development.”
McKenzie County, according to Patten, is just one of a handful of counties in North Dakota that doesn’t have some form of zoning.
And according to Patten, zoning is not going to stop all development.
“Just because zoning is enacted doesn’t mean that a development is going to occur,” stated Patten. “It just means that the developer will have to meet certain standards.”
But the one thing that Patten and the commissioners want to make clear is that if the county does proceed with zoning, there would be no restrictions on agriculture use.
“We want to open the discussion on the need for zoning and land use planning in the county,” states Patten, who acknowledges that there are mixed feelings on the board on the merits of zoning. “The board wants to know what everyone wants our county to look like in the future. We’re not going to force anything down anyone’s throat.”
So if you have thoughts or opinions on the merits of zoning and land use planning in McKenzie County, you need to be at these public input meetings.