Zoning issues new and old

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The Monroe County Zoning Board of Appeals discussed items relating to new and old issues at its meeting on Thursday. 

The new item that came before the board was a proposal to grant a special use permit to locate a propane storage, distribution and sales facility at 4851 State Route 3 south of Waterloo. 

That facility, which is owned by Ferrellgas, would house a 30,000-gallon tank and store 500,000 one-gallon residential tanks, according to county zoning director Mike Fausz. 

Eventually, the facility would also have the capability to have smaller tanks for individuals to pick up. 

Fausz said that is months away because Ferrellgas still has significant work to do to get the property up to code. 

The board voted 4-1 to grant the company a special use permit. 

“The board talked back and forth at the meeting,” Fausz said. “Some thought it should be in a commercial area. One of the board members even stated ‘well, I hate to see it leave the county.” 

The only board member who voted against the proposal was George Obernagel, who reasoned that it is not the county’s plan to have many businesses along Route 3. 

“Under the county comprehensive plan, that was never zoned to put in businesses,” he said. “This is out in an agricultural area, and I feel like once you start issuing variances to do this that anyone can come along Route 3 now and put a business anywhere.” 

The board also voted on an item related to the proposed wedding venue owned by Greg and Melinda Meyer at 1439 Centerville Road in rural Columbia. 

That matter had been sent back to the zoning board after the county commissioners decided to send it back to the Monroe County Plan Commission with an added special use provision.

That came after objections from nearby residents who cited traffic growth, light and sound pollution as concerns. 

“The county board felt if there were going to be wedding venues, maybe there needs to be not a rezoning where anything could go in but a special use where they could put some controls on it,” Fausz said of his understanding of the matter.

If the property had simply been rezoned, any type of business within a certain classification could open there. The special use provision allows the county to ensure it is only something like the proposed wedding venue.  

The zoning board, which originally voted 3-2 to allow the area to be rezoned from agricultural to business, voted unanimously to recommend the zoning code be amended in this way.

The measure has already passed the plan commission.

“I think it’s great,” Greg said of the decision. “It’s kind of a compromise the original planning board wanted from the start. When we applied for our zoning, no one was opposed to our plans, but they thought it was better as a special use than going through the spot zoning. It doesn’t matter to me. It’s exactly the same.”

The issue will now go to the county board for final approval. 

If passed, that would mean any place in an agricultural zone could apply for a special use permit through the plan commission and zoning board of appeals.

That allows the county to put restrictions on any businesses like how many employees they could have or how big events held at those places could be.

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