Photo by George Lauby
Ziegler faces the zoning board.
Bernice Ziegler waited for three and a half hours Tuesday night to tell the planning and zoning board what she thought of their new zoning regulations.
When she finally got her turn, she talked calmly for 20 minutes while the board listened intently.
Her presentation sparked a lengthy discussion.
But her ideas were not adopted.
Ziegler, who lives on the north edge of the city in the hills near the KNOP-TV broadcast station, made specific suggestions for the county’s new revised zoning code. She said that landowners with one or more acres should be allowed to have a horse, or chickens or rabbits, so they might make a little extra money.
She said eggs might be extra valuable in today’s uncertain economy.
The board discussed that at length, then agreed not to make it allowable, out of fear that some property owners would put a dozen horses on the land that could hardly support one.
Spot of industrial
But Ziegler’s primary objection is one she has fought for more than two years, attending nearly every county commissioners meeting, each Monday morning.
She is watching to be sure a neighboring tract of land won’t become an industrial construction site next to her residential neighborhood.
That land has already been rezoned from agricultural to light industrial, at the request of Parrett Construction of Valentine. The zoning change caught Ziegler by surprise. She read about it afterwards in the newspaper.
Ziegler and her daughter filed a lawsuit, claiming improper notification, but they let the suit lapse after Deputy County Attorney Joe Wright assured them the land could not be used for intensive construction activities, such as grinding concrete, without a public hearing.
However, in March, Parrett asked the county to recommend a state permit for a driveway off U.S. Highway 83 directly onto their land, but Ziegler and her daughter were the commissioners’ meeting that day to voice their concern that a direct driveway would increase the likelihood of industrial use. In the face of opposition, the county decided not to make the recommendation.
During the summer, as the planning commission revamped zoning classifications that are nearly 30 years old, Ziegler kept watch. On Sept. 11, she, along with dozens of other property owners, voiced complaints during a long public hearing. The board revised the zones as requested, with one exception – they left the industrial designation on the construction company’s property.
Ziegler is even more concerned now about the new zone, because there is no “light industrial” zone anymore. The zone is just plain “industrial” under the new classifications.
Never raising her voice Tuesday, Ziegler said it is too much. Holding up a map, she said the designation is an example of spot zoning. She recited the definition of spot zoning – a zone created to benefit the private interest of a landowner with no consideration of the general welfare of surrounding property owners.
Ziegler said her persistence should carry weight. She said Perret has had the same opportunity as she to attend meetings, but hasn’t done so. Nor has the company contacted her directly to try to work things out.
“So, he must not object,” she said.
Zoning administrator Judy Clark spoke up. She said the Perret company owner has contacted her and kept track of the process.
“If he knew we might change that zone tonight, I guarantee you he would have been here,” she said.
Ziegler said she deserved that opportunity too, and presented one more argument.
“What would each of you do if property next to your homes were zoned industrial?’ she asked.
The board went into a long discussion of the pros and cons of a few animals on small tracts of property. Clark said that chickens, actually “fowl” are permitted on all categories of land if they don’t interfere with the neighbors, but horses, pigs and cattle are prohibited on land less than 10 acres. She said it is a dilemma, that she hears complaints from both sides, often angry complaints.
Board member Lowell Fenster said he is against people who live in town wanting to raise livestock. Roger Merritt said 10 acres of land sometimes won’t feed a cow for a year. The board left the livestock restrictions in place.
The board also removed “rendering” from the list of possible land uses. They corrected a few typos, and without comment, they left the Perret property zoned industrial.
Ziegler will have one more chance to persuade officials to remove the industrial zone. The county board of commissioners has yet to review the new zoning classifications, something they must do.
Ziegler didn't get what she wanted Tuesday, but she won respect.
At the end of the meeting, which all-in-all lasted nearly four-and-a-half hours, zoning board chairman Rod Christmann thanked her.
"I rarely do this... but I commend you," Christmann said, noting that Ziegler's rare attention to details and constructive suggestions helped the board look at the issues with fresh eyes.