Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer

County officials want to dispel “rumors” that proposed changes to the agricultural nonurban zoning district are an attempt to raise property taxes.

“There have been some questions and concerns over the relationship between zoning and taxing,” County Counselor Mark Vincent said.

The county is in the process of rewriting much of the zoning code, and that includes making changes to the agricultural nonurban zoning district.

Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer said there are “rumors” that the county is trying to eliminate agricultural uses of property to raise property taxes.

“This is not a subverted plan to do that,” Griesheimer said, adding, “What we want to do is get the word out that we’re not trying to do something under the table or subversive.”

Vincent added that some people are concerned that zoning can affect taxes, but he said the two issues are unrelated.

“The tax is based upon how you use it (property),” Vincent said. “Zoning is based on what you can do there, but they don’t necessarily interrelate.”

Griesheimer said he does not know who may be spreading the rumors.

The proposed zoning change is being done for the right reasons, Griesheimer said, adding that, “Unfortunately, again there’s an element out there that’s calling people and saying we’re trying to do something wrong. That’s clearly not what’s going on here.”

The proposed zoning change involves removing the word “agricultural” from the agricultural nonurban zoning district name. Eliminating the word “agricultural” from the zoning classification would not raise property values, Griesheimer added.

Moreover, taking the word “agricultural” out of the zoning district’s name would not prohibit property from being used for agricultural purposes, he said.

Planning and Zoning Director Scottie Eagan said the purpose of taking the word “agricultural” out of the agricultural nonurban zoning district name is to make the code clearer.

Sometimes people think that land in the agricultural nonurban zoning district can only be used for agricultural purposes, she noted.

So when somebody wants to use their property for a mechanic shop, manufacturing, mining, or some other use, people may complain that it is not an agricultural use. But the agricultural nonurban district allows for other uses besides agricultural.

“You can do a lot more than just agricultural activities in that zoning district,” Eagan said.

By just calling the district nonurban, it should make it clearer that other uses are permitted, Eagan added.

The proposed change will not reduce any agricultural uses of land in the county, she said.

In fact, she said the proposed change would allow more agricultural uses than are currently permitted under the zoning code, including agricultural sales and processing. Also, the proposed change would allow for microbreweries in the nonurban zoning district. That could be considered an agricultural use since the hops for the beer would be grown on site.

There will be a public hearing on all of the proposed changes to the zoning code. But the planning and zoning commission must still hear all of the proposed changes before the public hearing is held, Eagan said.

Eagan said she wants to have one public hearing on all of the changes rather than doing separate hearings on each change. The public hearing could be held early next year, she said.

Eagan said she is done making the proposed changes and is now working through them with legal counsel before taking them to the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Other Changes

There are also some proposed changes to the agricultural nonurban zoning district in terms of what would be classified as permitted and conditional uses. Permitted uses are allowed automatically under the code while conditional uses require special approval.

Under the proposed changes, new permitted uses would be added to the nonurban zoning district, including agricultural processing, agricultural sales and services, RV parks, convenience stores, farm equipment and machinery sales and services, and microbreweries and micro-distilleries.

In other cases, some land uses in the nonurban district will be changed from a conditional use to a permitted use. Examples of uses that will be changed to permitted use include campgrounds, miniature golf courses, veterinary clinics, fraternal and private clubs, preschools and daycares.

Offices and outdoor archery and shooting ranges would be conditional uses under the proposed nonurban zoning district.