Sups mull county zoning plan

The Webster County Board of Supervisors mulled changes to the county’s Planning and Zoning comprehensive plan Wednesday morning.

No action was taken at the educational workshop. Planning and Zoning Administrator Sheilah Lizer gave the board an overview of how the laws are structured and answered questions on particular issues.

It cost about $76,000 to create the last comprehensive land use plan, Lizer said.

That was the first time the county had made a comprehensive plan, said Supervisor Keith Dencklau.

Lizer said it could cost less to change the existing plan than to create a whole new one.

Supervisor Merrill Leffler suggested the county plan to spend about $30,000 for the project.

The comprehensive plan is required by state law, Lizer said, and provides goals and objectives for land use in the county. This guide is then used to write the zoning ordinances.

There are three zones, or tiers, defining what kind of things can be built in different areas – agriculture, transitional development zone and urban reserve.

Language throughout the document emphasizes preserving prime agricultural ground.

“What I’m hoping you’re hearing through this, there’s a lot of ag preservation. We’re an ag community,” Lizer said.

Several supervisors said the ag preservation language may be too strong, and could prevent new industry from moving to Fort Dodge.

“It seems we’re to preserve ag land at almost any cost,” said Supervisor Bob Singer, referring to the document.

“I feel some of this is too ‘Let’s keep everything farmland,'” Leffler said. “I believe that will stifle the growth of the community, for a lot of reasons.”

For one thing, current agribusinesses are using up nearly all farm resources in the county, he said. While ag-related industry is very important, the county needs the flexibility to encourage all kinds of business.

“What’s the next step to look at so we can grow? Otherwise we’re just staying where we are,” Leffler said. “If we don’t have a mechanism to allow other industries to come into the community, you will only have this size pie.”

Supervisor Clark Fletcher said the board can take action regarding the plan when it discusses the year’s budgets, during its meeting at 10 a.m. today.

Lizer said changing the plan will require public hearings and publishing the plan, and that takes time.

Fletcher said there’s a strong possibility the supervisors will hire an outside resource to assist in drafting the plan.

Lizer agreed this was a good idea.

“Let’s get the right people for the right job,” Fletcher said. “Sheilah was not hired to develop comprehensive plans; she’s to administer them.

“We want Sheilah’s office to be known as a customer-friendly, supportive office, and we need to give her the tools to do that.”

The supervisors also said the current rules are restrictive to where houses can be built in the country. Leffler said new rules may be needed, or owners of small acreages under two acres would be overly limited in what they can build.