Commissioner tells Sunny View residents zoning is ‘off the table’

Published 6:35 pm Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sunny View residents packed the Sunny View Elementary library Monday, March 5, where the Polk County Board of Commissioners held public hearings to amend the Mountain and Ridgeline Protection Ordinance (MRPO) in both the zoned and unzoned areas of the county.
The meeting was one of the county’s traveling board of commissioners meetings, which occur every three months in different townships of the county. The 56 people who attended the meeting were mostly Sunny View residents.
After public comments, which included concerns that commissioners are trying to zone the Coopers Gap Township, commissioner Renée McDermott assured the audience that the board of commissioners has agreed not to zone the currently unzoned areas of Coopers Gap and White Oak.
Ritchie Greene said he’d just like to know whether commissioners were going to vote on zoning that night.
Vivian Searcy said about two years ago she was in a commissioners’ meeting and was the only resident there when the board was talking about going across people’s land.
“(Commissioners) said we can’t call it zoning because people will get upset – we’ll have to call it something else,” Searcy said. “We might be ignorant in ways, but we’re not stupid. Be careful of what you say and be careful of how you treat people in this county.”
McDermott said the amendments to the ordinance will loosen the terms in both the zoned and unzoned areas to make it easier for people to build a house and excavate.
“So please keep that in mind,” McDermott said. “We’re making it looser to help the citizens, not putting more on you.”
She said commissioners are trying to respond to some of the concerns they’ve received about the ordinance.
During public comments, Debbie Arceneaux mentioned the United Nations’ Agenda 21, which focuses on sustainable development. McDermott responded by saying Polk County does not participate in Agenda 21.
McDermott said zoning Coopers Gap and White Oak is not an option under discussion.
“We are not talking about zoning White Oak or Coopers Gap,” McDermott said. “That is off the table. That is not part of the conversation at all.”
She said it is true people are working on a unified development ordinance (UDO), but zoning is not a part of that.
“A couple of years ago (zoning) came up to a vote and it was a unanimous vote to not zone those areas,” McDermott said. “I can assure you it’s not going to happen in the foreseeable future. I think when it comes to that zoning issue, for as far as we can see, it is dead. It is not a question anymore.”
Commissioners unanimously approved amendments to the MRPO that include adding mobile homes to the definition of single-family residences and amending the excavation clauses to exempt the moving of dirt below 750 square feet from requirements beyond obtaining a building permit. Commissioners decided on Monday to extend the excavation exemption to 750 square feet from the previously drafted minimum of 500 square feet.
Prior to the amendments, residents could not place a mobile home on property above 1,650 feet elevation because the definition of residence in the ordinance did not include mobile homes. Commissioners said last month leaving the verbiage out was an error.

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