Testimony of 28 county residents was heard Thursday during a public hearing on the proposed changes to the overall zoning of Franklin County, which has been a work in progress for nearly two years.
Of those who went on the record, 23 people, or 80 percent, were against the new proposed zoning regulations and only five people testified in favor of the changes.
The changes presented by the Franklin County Planning and Zoning Department were rejected by a wide margin in October by the planning and zoning commission, but the final decision rests with county commissioners Tim Brinker, Dave Hinson and Todd Boland.
The proposed changes would zone 90 percent of the county into class “W,” which would allow 42 different types of enterprises to be built in areas which are mainly residential at this time.
The main permitted use which was focused on by those in opposition to the rezoning is confined animal feeding operations (CAFO), which have been allowed in Franklin County for 19 years and no countywide zoning changes have been undertaken since 1999.
Complicating the manner further is new statewide legislation that would prohibit cities and counties from placing restrictions on the enterprises that are more restrictive than the state stature allows. This legislation (SB 391) is being challenged in court.
About 90 people attended the 2 1/2-hour public hearing, which began at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in the county commission chambers in Union.
At the outset of the hearing, planning director Scottie Eagan presented details of the rezoning and gave reasons as to why specific areas were zoned in each way, including promoting commercial development near major roadways and building new homes to accommodate westward expansion of population from the St. Louis area into the rural communities.
“In 2018, we were directed by the county commission to rezone the county,” Eagan said. “Each planning and zoning commissioner was asked to look at each of their districts, but we did not get input from Boles Township.”
Eagan noted three public meetings were held on the proposed zoning changes in August, September and October along with two additional workshops before the planning and zoning commission voted to deny it by a 7 to 3 margin.
During Thursday’s hearing, each person who testified was allotted five minutes to give their statements and was allowed to submit written exhibits into the hearing record.
Those in favor of the rezoning were given the first chance to testify.
Lori Melton, Villa Ridge, said she thought it was a well-thought-out plan and those in opposition like to use alarming words to oppose something that will have a detrimental impact on small business.
Vince Loretta, Pacific, said he’s excited to see a proactive approach by the county that will have a positive impact on property values. He added the new zoning will give him more opportunities to use his property.
Drew O’Brien, Pacific, said the rezoning will be beneficial to the county since more and more people are moving out west.
About half of those who testified in opposition to the rezoning spoke about CAFO and the aesthetic, odoriferous and environmental impacts the large commercial farms could have, not only on residents, but businesses and tourism as well.
Because of the large number of testimonies, not all could be included in this reporting. Also, many of the testimonies included the same opposition to the commercial feeding operation and the potential odors and environmental impacts they have.
Other issues with the CAFO included the treatment of animals which Jack Oglander, Beaufort, said represents the worst in animal husbandry.
The Rev. Paul Schwartzkopf, New Haven, said the CAFO are immoral and steal from the surrounding landowners.
Gina Parmentier, with the Franklin County Board of Realtors, said the rezoning has the potential to stifle growth due to the county not being able to provide infrastructure to the rural areas where these 42 enterprises would be allowed.
Parmentier along with Pat Schuba, Labadie, and others testified they would like to see steering committees made up of county officials, landowners, businessmen and others to further review both the positive and negative impacts the rezoning would have.
Despite the multiple public meetings and the rezoning maps being on public display, both in the lobby of the county government building and on the planning and zoning department website, some at the hearing complained there was not enough public information about the rezoning available.
Kay Genovese testified the rezoning had been going on for a year and a half, but nobody knew it.
“I don’t know why, halfway through, a map wasn’t on the front page of The Missourian,” she said. “If the county was proud of this work, why not bring it to the public’s attention? There were people who work in this building that didn’t even know about it.”
Villa Ridge resident Eric Reichert urged the commissioners to heed the voices of the majority in the room who were against the rezoning.
“Planning and zoning overwhelmingly voted against this,” he said. “The people are telling you ‘do not do this.’ If this is a representative government, it should reflect the will of the people.”
Robert Wenkler echoed Reichert’s comments, saying if people do not pay attention to what is going on, changes will be made that are against their will and they won’t even have a say. This allows a minority of people in control to overrule the majority due solely to inattention to information, he said.
Many who testified also said they would like to see public hearings like the one Thursday be held in the evening when more residents would have the opportunity to attend.
Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker said the county commission will continue to accept both written and electronic testimony to be entered in the record on this rezoning hearing until Friday, Nov. 22.
By that time, the commission hopes to have the written transcripts of the oral testimony given Thursday and when all of the testimony is compiled, the county commission will hold a discussion, which by law would be open to the public to review all testimony and exhibits.
A final decision to approve or deny the countywide rezoning will be voted on at a regular county commission meeting held Tuesdays at 10 a.m. sometime in December.
Submissions to this particular hearing can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
All information, including maps on the proposed rezoning are available on the county planning and zoning website at www.franklinmo.org/planning_zoning.
Although CAFO received the most attention at the rezoning hearing, here is a list of all of the permitted uses allowed in the “W” zoning:
• Residential Uses:
Planned unit developments, second dwellings and medical hardships, single-family dwellings, one dwelling unit per lot to include site-built homes, modular homes, mobile home (single), and mobile home (double), single-family dwellings on an unsubdivided lot not to exceed two site-built or modular dwelling units per lot with a maximum density of one single-family dwelling unit per three acres, subdivisions with fewer than seven lots, and two-family dwellings (i.e. duplex).
• Non-Residential Uses:
Agricultural, farming, dairy farming, livestock and poultry raising, forestry and other uses commonly classified as agricultural with no restrictions to operation of such vehicles and machinery that are customarily incidental to such agricultural uses, and with no restrictions to the sale or marketing of products raised on the premises. This includes animals subject to CAFOs regulated by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
Agricultural processing, agricultural sales and services, animal auction house, apiaries, aviaries, fish hatcheries and fur farming or the raising of fur-bearing animals, bed and breakfast and vacation rentals, public parks or playgrounds, billboards (mini), boarding and riding stables, campgrounds and RV parks, cemeteries, churches, convenience stores with or without the sale of fuel, day care group, educational, cultural, and/or religious uses.
Farm equipment and machinery sales and service, fraternal or private clubs, golf course and clubhouse, driving range (unlighted) as an accessory use, greenhouses, farm and produce markets with on-premises sales, home occupations with up to 20 hours a week of retail sales of products produced on the property where the home occupation is housed, hunting, fishing and propagation of wildlife, indoor archery and/or shooting ranges.
Institution (hospital, nursing, rest or convalescent home, and educational or religious) on a site not less than five acres, provided that not more than 50 percent of the site area may be occupied by buildings. Hospitals may include a helicopter landing pad area as an accessory use. Small kennel, light manufacturing (with five or fewer employees), medical marijuana cultivation facility (indoor only), medical marijuana-infused products manufacturing facility (with five or fewer employees).
Miniature golf courses, driving ranges, skateboard parks, water slides and similar uses, preschool and/or day care centers, public building or facility erected by a governmental agency, repair shop, special occasions, temporary fireworks stands from June 20 to July 10 of the same year, utility waste landfill, veterinarian clinic, wineries, microbrewery and microdistillery.