Posted 2/15/12 (Wed)
By Lauren Billing
Farmer Staff Writer
The first step in bringing zoning ordinances to McKenzie County occurred last month when the McKenzie County Commissioners approved a motion to form a planning board to construct a comprehensive zoning plan and hire a zoning planner. Recently, the commissioners approved eight of the nine individuals who will sit on the board.
The board will include Dale Patten, McKenzie County commissioner, and Deidre Berquist, Tax Equalization director, as representatives from county government. Justin Voll and Kris Pacheco, both Watford City City Council members, will represent Watford City as government officials from the county seat.
“We want to try and create a good working relationship between the city and county governments,” says Voll. “Since the city already has zoning we can provide some guidance for the process.”
Though Voll admits he and his fellow Watford City officials are not experts on zoning, he believes that having anyone with experience on the zoning process will be an asset.
The rest of the board is made up of at-large individuals from throughout the county. The at-large members include Paul Wisness, Carol Norgard, Daryl Flagen, and Kris Mrachek.
These McKenzie County residents come from all over the county. They offer a variety of interests, professions, and expertise. The at-large members work as farmers and ranchers, as well as in insurance sales, education and healthcare.
The McKenzie County Commissioners were especially committed to seeing that the planning board was made up of a diverse group of individuals. The variety of experience within the group will help ensure that the largest number of possible interests are heard and considered throughout the zoning process.
“This is a great group of individuals,” says Berquist. “There is a lot of knowledge to be brought to the table among the group and I think it will be a well rounded and fair commission.”
Now that the board is nearly ready to begin working on formulating a comprehensive zoning plan for the county, the reality of the amount of work to be done has more than set in.
“I hope we can get it done reasonably fast,” says Patten. “I would guess we will be having anywhere from two to four meetings a month until we get it completed.”
Patten understands that the process of completing such a plan, and doing it well, is a huge undertaking.
“The challenge is to get it done timely, even with the amount of work that needs to get done,” says Patten.
The planning board will be working closely with the Roosevelt Custer Regional Council in defining McKenzie County’s zoning and the accompanying ordinances. The council has been utilized by many neighboring counties and will offer much needed experience to the zoning process.
The planning board is still in need of another at-large member. According to the McKenzie County Commissioners, they are looking for a resident from the southern part of the county. The county is also still working on hiring a land use planner/zoning administrator. Any interested individuals for either position are encouraged to contact Berquist at the McKenzie County Courthouse.
There is currently no date set for the first meeting of the planning board, but it will follow shortly after the ninth and final member is confirmed.
The work of the zoning planning board is extremely important to the infrastructure of the county and will serve as a check for the growth that has all but descended on McKenzie County. The commissioners hope to see a proposal by late spring or early summer in order to mandate zoning as quickly as possible.