A controversial proposal to remove the word “agricultural” from the title of a zoning district will not go forward, two commissioners announced Tuesday.
The earlier decision to strike the word agricultural from the agricultural nonurban zoning district’s name has been controversial.
But county officials say taking the word out of the zoning district’s title would not have raised property taxes or reduced the amount of property that could be used for agricultural purposes.
‘Just a Title’
In fact, removing the word from the title would not have changed anything other than the name of the district, Second District Commissioner Mike Schatz said.
“It’s a matter of semantics, basically” Schatz said. “It’s just a title.”
Schatz said he would rather just leave the name of the zoning district the same and avoid causing any other confusion.
Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer said he agrees with Schatz that the word agricultural should be left in the title of the zoning district.
They both say the proposal to remove the word was done with the right intentions.
First District Commissioner Tim Brinker was not at the county commission meeting Tuesday.
Removing the word was intended to make it clear that uses other than agriculture are allowed in the agricultural nonurban zoning district. In the past, people have thought only agricultural uses are allowed in the district since the word “agricultural” is in the title of the zoning district, officials say.
Planning Director Scottie Eagan said the hope was that striking the word agricultural, so the district is just called nonurban, would make it clear that land within the district can be used for purposes other than just agriculture.
But ultimately, the proposal ended up causing more confusion, Schatz said.
During a public hearing last week, Labadie resident Christine Alt expressed concern over removing the word agricultural.
“This county was built on farming — small farms and big farms and agriculture,” Alt said. “So you are going to have a big fight on your hands if you say that it doesn’t matter and you’re throwing it out. There must be some other reason that you’re doing that.”
Griesheimer said fliers have been placed around the county about taking the word “agricultural” out of the zoning district’s name.
“There is much more going on behind the scenes,” Griesheimer said last week, adding, “I don’t see that this issue is going away.”
He said he hoped that putting an article in the newspaper a couple of weeks ago would have helped quell the rumors. But he said matters have gotten worse.
The flier states, “Citizen/Farmer Alert. County commissioners are trying to change Franklin County from Agriculture/Non-Urban to just Non-Urban. They ‘claim’ it will not raise taxes.”
The flier then goes on to state the county’s website address so people can stay up to date on when meetings on the issue will be held. It further states to “Spread the Word. We need to vote to stop this.”
Griesheimer said the rumors are being spread by two separate groups who are from opposite sides of the political spectrum from each other.
“But the bottom line is that they both have the same agenda, and it’s us,” Griesheimer said, adding, “Right now, people just don’t trust government.”
Last week, Brinker said striking the word agricultural does not mean that less land could be used for agricultural purposes.
“It just means you can do that and much more with your property,” Brinker said. “It’s about property rights.”
Brinker added, “What we’re trying to promote and what everyone wants to see is development within our county.”
That includes “job enhancement, better use of land, or allowing one to utilize their land as deemed allowable by law,” Brinker said.
Schatz said he likes the rural aspect of Franklin County but said he also understands that development must take place to help the county grow.
Removing the word agricultural from the zoning district’s title was a unanimous recommendation from the county planning commission, Griesheimer said.
Schatz said he hopes that the county commission’s decision to deny the recommendation does not offend the planning commission.
Other changes proposed to the agricultural nonurban zoning district could still go forward.
A public hearing on the proposed changes is expected to take place next year.
In fact, under the proposed changes, more agricultural uses could be allowed in the district than are currently allowed, according to Eagan.
Under the changes, new uses that would be allowed in the district would include agricultural processing, agricultural sales and services, RV parks, convenience stores, farm equipment and machinery sales and services, and microbreweries and micro-distilleries.
Under other proposed changes to the district, campgrounds, miniature golf courses, veterinary clinics, fraternal and private clubs, preschools and daycares would be permitted uses instead of conditional uses.