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County zoning plans continue to develop

Posted 5/30/12 (Wed)

By Lauren Billing
Farmer Staff Writer

McKenzie County officials are continuing to develop a county-wide comprehensive zoning plan, which will include specific zoning designations and the accompanying land use plans.
Walter Hadley, McKenzie County county planner, and the Zoning and Land Use Planning Committee are working in conjunction with Gene Buresh, community development coordinator for the Roosevelt Custer Regional Council for Development (RCD), to create a viable plan for the county.
“We brought the committee a generic zoning code,” says Buresh. “We are now working together to adapt it to what’s appropriate for McKenzie County.”
Buresh’s work has allowed the planning committee a jumping-off point to tackle the formulation of an entire comprehensive plan.
“The RCD team has done a great job,” says Hadley. “They have really gotten the process going by pulling all the needed information together.”
Last week, the group went through the first run-through of the proposed draft. Hadley believes that, in the next month, the draft will undergo more finalizing and be made available to the public.
“We will be notifying the public when the plan is available for review,” says Hadley. “We want input from the public to make sure that the plan works the best it can for everyone.”
By July, a map of the entire county and the proposed zones will be available in addition to the draft of the comprehensive plan.
As planning continues, there is continued conversation between the planning committee and the county’s townships.
Townships can decide if they want to adhere to the county’s zoning plans or be responsible for their own zoning. Should a township choose to remain independent of the county’s zoning, that township will be responsible for enforcing their own ordinances.
The comprehensive zoning plan will also allow agriculturally-zoned areas to largely remain as they are throughout the county. This means that all farms will be exempt from land use planning regulations if what they are constructing is ag-related.
Otherwise, farmers, as well as all property owners, will have to petition for conditional use permits, if what they want to construct is not already on the approved list of land uses for their zone. A conditional use permit would approve certain allowable land uses, beyond what is automatically approved, based on a petitioner’s adherence to terms and conditions set by the county.
During the planning stage, Hadley is putting a temporary building permit process in place for those building now. The main concerns, currently, are that builders are adhering to health and safety standards. The permit process will be fully reformulated once the comprehensive plan is approved and enforced.
“I’ve had a lot of calls since I started from people wanting to know what to do for building permits and what the process is to get one,” says Hadley. “This transitional process will help get us ready for the completed building permit procedures.”
Once the plan is adopted, the county will consider how to control the enforcement of the new ordinances. The available options include hiring a firm to oversee enforcement or hiring an individual at the county level.
All the work put in by officials like Hadley, the planning committee and Buresh are indicative of how difficult it is to build a comprehensive plan from scratch.
“This project has been different because McKenzie County is the last county in the state to not have a comprehensive zoning ordinance,” says Buresh. “It’s challenging because there’s nothing to go off of, but we have been well-received and are making progress.”
Hadley, the planning committee and Buresh hope to have the entire comprehensive plan ready for final approval by the McKenzie County Commissioners by mid-August.