Turner County planning and zoning board decide with a split vote

Dawn Rye | Writer

During last week’s Turner County planning and zoning board meeting, a motion was made to recommend Chris Peterson’s rural residential permit to the county commissioners. 

Peterson and his wife, Tania, approached the board to rezone a 6.67 acre piece in section 39 of Turner Township.

Peterson said he would like to rezone the property to place a newly constructed home and after completion, it would be sold. He provided the board with a map that shows the quarter-mile setbacks that were measured from the front door by the neighbor’s property and showing the ag setbacks and how the piece that he would like rezoned is encompassed by his neighbor’s setbacks. Peterson noted according to the ordinance setbacks it would not hamper any future ag expansion.

Chairman Eric Meyer explained the agenda for the meeting is to make a recommendation to send it to the county commissioners. He noted no matter what the vote is, the board will have the commissioners make the final decision. Meyer said the board will vote on how they feel, however, the decision is in the county commissioners’ hands.

States Attorney Katelynn Hoffman noted there is a public notice that is required for the county commissioners to hear the recommendation. She said the soonest the request could be heard by the commissioners would be Tuesday, Feb. 11.

Board member Mick Miller asked that no matter how the recommendation goes, does commissioner Tony Ciampa still has to set out?

Hoffman said yes since he recused himself from this permit.

Miller asked who would fill in Ciampa’s spot to not receive a tie vote?

Hoffman explained there is not an alternative for the county commissioners, because it is an elected position. She said the statute-codified law 7.18 A-14 states a majority vote is required for approval of the initiated measure. If there is a tie vote by the county commissioners the decision is deferred to the next meeting. If there were another tie vote it would essentially fail noted Hoffman. 

Peterson asked for clarification if there are four commissioner members and one votes no the majority vote carries?

Hoffman said it would be a simple majority vote.

Concerned citizen Brad Harms commented that he understands that building houses is how Peterson provides for his family. Harms asked Peterson how many acres is his home on?

Peterson said 18 acres in Lincoln County. He commented that he wanted to make it known to clear the air that he would not be building more than one house on the property. He said he was willing to sign a document stating that he was only going to build one home and he would attest to that. Peterson noted that has been his goal the whole time.

Hoffman said the board and citizens can take him, on his word, however, the board is here just to make a recommendation.

Neighbor Josh Zimmerman said if Lincoln County is more favorable from what they heard from the attorneys, wouldn’t that be the place to do it?

Peterson commented the piece of property was purchased before Zimmerman purchased his property from Harms. He said this was the more streamline way of accomplishing things.

Miller asked the neighbors if they are all still on the same page?

Zimmerman and Harms both responded stating the neighbors are all on the same page.

Alternate board member Jared Hybertson said that he reviewed the facts and everyone’s opinion. He noted he was trying to make the best decision that he could based on what is best for the county and area. He asked the opposition, which was all in agreement, if it still stands that the neighbors don’t want multiple houses built? Hybertson said it appears to him the land is suited for a home instead of agriculture.

Zimmerman explained there are five homes in a half-mile and the residents live out on a gravel road and nobody signed up to live in a housing development. He said this would make it six homes in a half-mile, back to back.

“We live in the country for a reason,” commented Zimmerman.

Meyer said the board’s point of view since there was public opposition and hamper of ag, the board is reasoning to vote no. Hybertson asked if there is something in the zoning ordinances that state that allows so many residential homes in one location?

Director of Equalization Faye Dubbelde explained one house per 40 acres unless it’s rezoned or a landowner moves the eligibility from another property with the same ownership.

Hybertson noted the challenge is the way the board has to pass this along to the commissioners without the planning and zoning board holding Peterson accountable.

Miller said if the property does get rezoned, in theory, Peterson could build six homes in six acres.

Peterson commented he would write up a document right now in the open meeting and Hoffman could be a witness, along with The New Era reporter being the second witness, which would state he was only going to build one home on that property. He said that would be his word with his signature.

Miller said that is not part of the decision making process during the meeting.

Peterson noted he is trying to be honest and clear the air so that his neighbors don’t feel like he is going back on his word.

Hoffman explained in the body of the planning and zoning ordinances that she drafted when there has been a rezone, there is a paragraph that lists the legal description for one single-family dwelling based on what the petition read.

Zimmerman said at the end of the day, Peterson still lives in Lincoln County and wants to build a home for monetary gain and doesn’t consider the neighbors that live in the area that are opposed to it.

Meyer noted that no matter what the board votes it still has to be recommended to the county commissioners. He said the board has to follow the ordinances and what is stated.

“It sounds like we are passing the buck, but that is just the way this works,” commented Meyer.

Meyer asked the board to entertain a motion to recommend Peterson’s request to the county commissioners. Miller made the motion seconded by Hybertson, however, with a roll call vote, Lounsbery and Meyer voted no. 

A public hearing will held Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 9:30 a.m. in the Turner County commissioner’s room. 

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