November 9, 2011

Zoning talks to resume

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

After the July 5 meeting on zoning in McKenzie County ended in a stalemate, with a ‘wait and see’ policy, talks of zoning in McKenzie County have again resurfaced.
In the meantime, zoning issues facing McKenzie County haven’t gone away. In fact, some would say they have intensified.
“Both Mountrail and Williams counties have issued temporary housing moratoriums, as has Watford City,” states Watford City Mayor Brent Sanford. “That means the only place left for this kind of development is within McKenzie County.”
And Alexander Mayor Kay Glick sees no option but to have some sort of regulation in McKenzie County.
“Some regulation is needed to make the businesses that want to develop in the county accountable,” states Glick. “We want the landscape preserved as much as possible for the benefit of the whole county.”
While the first two informational meetings drummed up conflicting emotions and ideas concerning zoning, the McKenzie County Commissioners feel it is again time to revisit the idea.
“The extreme rate of development has a lot of residents looking at zoning,” states Dale Patten, McKenzie County commissioner.
But the McKenzie County Commissioners are not talking so much about zoning as land use planning. And while land use planning can lead to land use regulations, also known as zoning, they are not one and the same.
“We are scheduling public meetings to explain land use planning and what it will and won’t do for the communities in our county,” states Gene Veeder, McKenzie County Job Development Authority executive director.
The reason is that there are a lot of issues and concerns among McKenzie County residents concerning the growth and development of county land, and not all of it can be solved by land use planning.
“People are concerned with day care, law enforcement, trash and traffic,” Veeder states. “But not all of those are solvable by land use planning.”
And that’s what Veeder and the county commissioners are hoping to explain to county residents.
“We had some meetings on land use planning and zoning this summer and we found that some were poorly attended, and really stirred some mixed feelings concerning the issue,” Veeder states.
However, according to Veeder, since those meetings, the McKenzie County Commissioners have found that most people just don’t know what land use planning is and they don’t know what it can do for the county.
The county commissioners are hoping that this next round of meetings will solve those two issues. Knowing and understanding that opinions may not change, at least residents will have the opportunity to make an informed decision.
The meetings are set for late November and December and will be held in Cartwright, Watford City, Keene and Grassy Butte. The McKenzie County Commissioners plan to have an expert come and speak on the issue of land use planning, and area residents are encouraged to come, listen, and share their thoughts.