Wednesday, April 10, 2013
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County rezoning and conditional use discussed as recent mining appeal sits in higher court

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[April 10, 2013]  The Logan County Planning and Zoning Committee met for a brief discussion on April 3.

The larger conversation of the night was the recent land rezoning that occurred in Logan County. The land, owned by Douglas Muck, would be mined for limestone by Hanson Materials, the company that operated the previous mine.

Since the land was approved for rezoning by the county board in December of 2012, the committee has been looking into revamping their laws concerning conditional use zoning for extraction. Though the application stated a request for rezoning, the idea of conditional use zoning was brought up repeatedly at each level of deliberation.

An issue that arose during those discussions was the lack of a precedent for this type of conditional use permit and the resulting lack of guidelines. Zoning officer Will D'Andrea said that other counties do have such guidelines in place. No new guidelines were specifically mentioned at the meeting.

In March, an appeal was filed by one of the neighboring landowners. The appeal mainly challenges the decision of the county board, as well as the due process the land rezoning moved through. As a result, the county board will have to defend its judgment at a higher court within the state. At that level, the appeal could fail, granting the land rezoning. D'Andrea said it is hard to tell how long it will remain at that level.

A question was brought forward at the committee meeting as to looking at such a set of laws. Would new guidelines have an effect on the current appeal?

D'Andrea said that new guidelines would not change anything if the appeal was overturned or the plaintiff withdrew. There is also the possibility that the initial applicant could choose to reapply again in the future, should the appeal to the court succeed or the applicant decide to withdraw.

"I don't feel comfortable changing the landscape in the middle of this," said Kevin Bateman, who believes it would be wise for the committee to wait until this appeal has passed to make any changes. "Until we get an opinion, the safest bet is to not discuss it," he said.

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Bill Martin agreed with Bateman, saying that the committee should not pass anything for the time being, but discussion or gathering information could still be part of their meetings.

D'Andrea told the committee that for now, they can educate the board members on existing language for conditional use permits for the purpose of discussion. David Hepler said he would consult the state's attorney about this matter in the near future.

As to the appeal itself, D'Andrea could not really comment on it, but from his perspective, this is really the only way the landowner has to try to ensure his own interests.

In other business, D'Andrea told the committee members that he has not heard anything new from the companies bringing wind farms to Logan County. D'Andrea also said that Relight, a power company, is still expecting to apply for permits sometime this year. Relight is hoping to take advantage of tax credits that will soon expire.

D'Andrea said that Relight will have to act fast if they still want to try to get the tax credits, and from what he has gathered, they still intend to apply.

Committee members present were David Hepler, Pat O'Neill, Kevin Bateman, Bill Martin and Jan Schumacher. Zoning officer Will D'Andrea was also present. Gene Rohlfs, Jim Drew and Gary Atteberry were in attendance as guests.


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