Wednesday, December 04, 2013
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Single ordinance on 2 topics passes city:
Stabled horses permitted and guidelines set for future drive-thru businesses

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[December 04, 2013]  Monday evening, a single ordinance regarding zoning changes in the city of Lincoln passed with a 6-1 vote. Seven members of the council were present, with Jeff Hoinacki being absent for the evening. The single "no" vote came from Bruce Carmitchel.

The ordinance combined two recommendations made by the Lincoln Planning Commission. The first part of the ordinance was the establishment of a special use in residential districts labeled as R-1. The special use would permit horses to be stabled within city limits.

The second part of the ordinance established construction guidelines and restrictions for newly constructed drive-thru businesses, but would have no bearing on businesses already existing inside city limits. These restrictions would be incorporated into zoning districts labeled C-1 or C-2.

Special use: Stabled horses permitted in R-1 residential districts

The first part of the ordinance, pertaining to horses, is the result of a request by Patrick and April Doolin to construct a horse barn or stable on their property on the north side of Lincoln, off Union Street.

The Doolins own a total of 23 acres, 18 of which they plan to make their homestead. Their plans for the future include construction of a new home and the horse barn, along with pasture and riding areas.

In October, the couple appeared before the Lincoln Zoning Board of Appeals to request that the barn they plan to build be allowed to exceed current height limits on such structures. Their request was granted, but what quickly came into play was the fact that the city did not have a special use permit in city codes that would allow or disallow stabling horses.

The Doolins then had to take their request to the city planning commission. That commission, after much discussion, established a set of stringent guidelines in which horses could be permitted in the city. The recommendation was then sent to the Lincoln City Council for final say on whether or not such a special use should be allowed.

At last week's committee of the whole meeting, zoning officer John Lebegue explained the conditions of the special use permit in detail to the council.

The special use requires that the horse farm be located on a lot of no less than 10 acres. Pasture must be provided at a rate of 1.5 acres per horse, and no more than six horses may be located on any property. Waste must be hauled away on a regular basis or stored in a contained composting system. There are also restrictions as to use of a front yard for the horses, distances between buildings on the property, and distances between buildings and adjoining properties belonging to others.

At the Tuesday meeting, there was not a great deal of discussion on this topic. Marty Neitzel asked how the neighbors on Union Street felt about the horses being there. She was told that at first there was some opposition, but the primary concern seemed to be less about the horses and more about how the homestead would be constructed. Melody Anderson commented that the farm will be in her ward, and she has not heard from any constituents regarding the issue.

It was also noted that some of the neighbors have expressed that they are pleased with the large number of trees the Doolins are currently planting on the property.

Bruce Carmitchel wondered if the Doolins would be boarding horses and if that constituted a business.

Currently, the Doolins have no plans to board horses for others.

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Other comments included Mayor Keith Snyder reminding the council that at one time there were several horses in the city, as the Odd Fellows Children's Home owned horses. Tom O'Donohue also commented that in some cities, horses are not uncommon. There was a similar discussion on this at the planning commission, where Lebegue talked about communities in the Chicago area that have several horse farms and consider them as a unique contribution to their city.

Carmitchel also warned the council that they could be opening the door for other livestock production if they are not careful. He told the council, "If you allow horses, be prepared for the next step."

Lebegue said the special use would be specific to horses only. In addition, he said that he is currently researching and working on amendments that would address other animals inside city limits.

New drive-thru business guidelines and restrictions

The second part of the ordinance addressed the construction of drive-thru businesses. These types of businesses would be required to obtain a special use permit before construction. The guidelines for allowing the permit, Lebegue said, had been written to protect adjacent residential areas and to also assure no disruption of traffic flow around the businesses.

Rules to be put in place included consideration of how headlights in the drive-thru area would shine into residential buildings nearby; whether or not there was sufficient lot space to keep waiting traffic from backing up onto the roadway; and consideration as to how the drive-thru facility would affect neighboring businesses.

Lebegue had also brought this to the planning commission for their recommendation. At that time, he said there were no codes concerning drive-thrus in the city. Establishing a code would give his office the opportunity to review site plans and assure that such businesses were not detrimental to the neighborhood.

The new rules would apply only to future construction.

Lebegue was asked by the commission if there was something coming that had prompted this. He answered that currently there is nothing on the horizon. He noted that he has had conversations with McDonald's regarding new construction, but nothing is concrete on their future plans. He also noted that when talking with that corporation, their representative had been surprised to learn that such rules were not already in place.

At the Tuesday committee of the whole last week, aldermen had little to say about this requested change, and all seemed to be in agreement that it was needed.

On Monday evening, when the motion was made for the joint ordinance, Carmitchel asked if the two issues could be voted on separately. He said he wished to vote "yes" for one and "no" for the other. However, he was told the ordinance had been written to cover both.

Sue McLaughlin, city administrator, said that if the council wished to vote on the items separately, that could be done, but it would delay the decision for another two weeks.

In the end, the council went forward with the vote. Six aldermen voted "yes": Melody Anderson, Kathy Horn, Marty Neitzel, Tom O'Donohue, Jonie Tibbs and David Wilmert. Carmitchel was the only "no" vote on the issue.

With the special use permit to stable horses in R-1 residential districts in place, the Doolins can now return to the planning commission with their request to build their homestead.


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