Franklin County Government Center

It’s back to the drawing board for the county planning board members who have been drafting a new countywide zoning map. 

The Franklin County Planning and Zoning Commission Thursday voted to table the new zoning districts and map until it can meet again to further discuss amendments.

The pause in discussions was prompted by complaints by residents in the northeastern portion of Franklin County who are calling the proposed “W” district too broad for the area. 

Scottie Eagan, county planner, and the planning department have been revising the current zoning map, and Article 7: Zoning Districts, of the Unified Land Use regulations. 

Under the revised plan, there would be one less residential district than there is now, bringing the total zoning districts down from 10 to nine.

That includes both commercial and residential zoning districts.

The districts would be renamed W, B, R, A, Y, O, P, T and G. For clarity, the new map would be color-coded based on the district. For example, the B district would be blue and the R district would be red.

W District

Residents who live near St. Albans were among those who addressed their displeasure over the proposed W district for that area. The parcels near St. Albans, as well as north of Pacific near Highway 100 to Highway T, were also addressed.

This district is both commercial and residential, which one member of the public said was the most “liberal” zoning district. According to the proposed district’s purpose statement, “The intent of this district is to provide for agricultural uses to mix with low density residential uses for the convenience of residents and travelers.”

For example, the district would allow residential usages for small subdivisions with fewer than seven lots, two-family dwellings, single-wide mobile homes, planned unit developments, etc. Nonresidential spaces such as billboards, cemeteries, day cares, golf courses and ranges, medical marijuana indoor cultivation facilities and repair shops are a part of a list that totals 42 different types of businesses that don’t need a zoning permit.

This began a discussion among the board members.

“To go from the suburban development district that exists in Boles and Calvey townships to that W district is too much,” board member Bill McLaren said. “I think some of the area has been too restrictive over the past 25 years. I think we need some more options for the area to open it up for more development. But to go from suburban development to agriculture and the ‘W’ district, is a step that is honestly too far. 

“I own property in both Calvey and Boles townships, a significant amount of property, so this cuts me the wrong way to say this, it’s not in my best interest to say what I’m going to say, but I think their concerns are true.” 

He went onto give an example of what could happen.

“Realistically, no one is going to build a livestock market in that area, but it is permitted,” McLaren said. He went on to say that he could buy property in a designated W district and place his livestock market there without needing a zoning permit. It would drive down the property values. McLaren used the example of a livestock market because he owns livestock and needs to drive 80 miles to get to one.

This started a discussion about possibly making a “hybrid” district for that area. But that too seemed unfair.

“If we do come up with a different district, I don’t know if it’s kosher to put that in one area of the county,” board member Debbie Willete said. “Once we would come up with something new, there may be other parts of the county where that’s applicable. I know that sounds daunting, but I don’t think it’s proper to just consider something new for one little portion of the county. That’s my argument for approving a portion of the county and leaving one space off.”

Next Steps

Members then discussed what they should do next. Anything approved would go to the county commissioners for a vote. If they sought to change anything, it would head back to the planning and zoning department for another public hearing. 

County Counselor Mark Piontek gave a suggestion.

“It almost sounds like this would be something appropriate for a workshop with the county commissioners,” Piontek said. “Not a public hearing, but a workshop where you can sit down and go through all this stuff and hash it out. Then you can come up with some plan or map that’s more unified that everyone can more or less agree on what type of regulations or if you need a new zoning district. You can get all of that done and then present that at a public hearing. I realize it will delay things a while, but it sounds to me like that’s what you’re looking for.”

Chairman Bill Evans said he was frustrated spending this much time and effort to get to the 11th hour after everyone has seen the proposal, to make changes. The board has been planning the new zoning districts and map for 1 1/2 years.

Board member Ron Williams retorted: “I’ll take some offense to that because we heard testimony tonight and that’s what we are supposed to base our decision off of. Based off the testimony tonight, it made my mind think about maybe having another district added. I wasn’t thinking about it before tonight.”

The board voted to table the proposal until a workshop with the county commissioners could be scheduled. The vote itself was 5-2 in favor of the workshop. However, there was some confusion on if the vote counted, as there were four members — which included one current vacancy — not in attendance and six votes are officially needed. It was determined by the commission’s code that the majority of the members in attendance is all that is needed when not enough members are present.

The proposed map and zoning districts can be viewed online at in the agendas and minutes of the planning and zoning department section of the website.

Included in the plan are proposed commercial districts that would be located along major highways, such as Highway 47, because that is where many businesses are located and where development is shifting toward.

A lot of residential areas are near higher density populations, such as cities like St. Clair, Washington and Union.