Proposed changes to the county’s zoning code would strike the word “agricultural” from one district’s name.
But County Planning and Zoning Director Scottie Eagan said this does not mean agricultural land is being eliminated in the county.
“We’re not getting rid of it, we’re just proposing to change the name of it,” Eagan said.
She added, “We’re not changing anybody’s zoning, we’re not changing the use of anybody’s property. Their taxing won’t change.”
In fact, Eagan said the proposed changes would actually allow more agricultural uses than are currently permitted under the zoning code.
The zoning district being changed is currently called agricultural non-urban. The proposal is to change the district name to simply be called “non-urban.”
Under the proposed changes, new permitted uses would be added to the non-urban 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.
“Those are all things that were never listed that we are proposing to add to that district,” Eagan said.
She said she thinks the microbreweries and distilleries proposed under the code could attract some interest.
“We’ve had lots of calls from people wanting to do something like that,” Eagan said.
Currently, the county does not have a specific zoning classification for micro-breweries and distilleries.
“What we’ve been doing is classifying them similar to that of a winery,” Eagan said. “But now we’re actually having their own definitions, their own place.”
In other cases, some land uses in the non-urban district will be changed from a conditional use to a permitted use. This means that it will be easier for people to use land in certain ways.
Examples of uses that will be changed to permitted use include campgrounds, miniature golf courses, veterinary clinics, fraternal and private clubs, pre-schools and day cares.
Rural Nature Hurt?
Offices and outdoor archery and shooting ranges would be conditional uses under the proposed non-urban zoning district.
Adding offices could be positive for the county because it would open that district up for more business, she said.
She does not think this will hurt the zoning district’s rural nature. For instance, she said microbreweries are agricultural because the products would be grown on site, she said
“We’re trying to make it easier for people to do business in the county,” Eagan said.
Eagan hopes that by dropping the word “agricultural” out of the zoning district’s title that the public will better understand how land in that area can be used.
Currently, she said some people question why certain uses are allowed in a district partially identified as agricultural. For instance, people have questioned why a quarry or vehicle repair shop would be considered for an “agricultural” area.
Just because the word “agricultural” is in the title of a zoning district does not mean other uses are forbidden, Eagan said.
By streamlining the zoning district’s title to “non-urban” it will hopefully make it easier for the public to understand, Eagan added.
“People are so focused on ‘agricultural’ that they think that’s all you can do in that district,” Eagan said. “Anytime anything comes through that’s not an agricultural activity the main argument is ‘Well, we’re in an agricultural district.”’
But Eagan said, “It’s not strictly for farming.”
The purpose of the agricultural non-urban district is to “allow agricultural, recreational, wildlife, forestry, open space, farming and related uses to mix with low-density development,” Eagan said.
The change to this agricultural non-urban zoning district is part of a major rewrite of the county’s zoning code.
“We’re pretty much changing the majority of the sections in our code,” Eagan said.
The planning and zoning commission has already recommended that the county commission approve the changes to the agricultural non-urban district.
But the county commission has not yet voted. It is waiting for all of the changes to be proposed so they can be voted on as a whole to “start fresh.” That means a decision may not come until next year.