Commissioners struggle with zoning issue

Tia Lynn Ivey News

The Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) debated the necessity of two sets of regulations concerning “personal instruction” classes offered in private residences and livestock restrictions dependent on property size. The council approved the former and tabled the latter.

In a 3-to-1, the BOC approved  “personal instruction” standards to regulate classes offered on private residences, such as art classes, yoga classes, nutrition classes and other small courses that are popping up throughout the county.

“We want to get ahead of this,” said Chuck Jarrell, director of planning for the county. “We want to set up standards for parking, class sizes, and so forth. This is really about public safety. We need to address this in some form or fashion because we know that we already have individuals offering art classes and camps throughout the county and as we continue to grow we need to stay on top of these facilities, making sure they meet all the requirements for safety and compliance,” said Jarrell. “It’s complaint-based. If we receive complaints about traffic, noise, or safety, we would have some kind of regulation to address those issues.”

The regulations call for limits on class sizes, parking, and buffers between property lines.

Some of the commissioners were hesitant to enact the proposed regulations.

“This sounds like a nightmare to enforce,” said Commissioner Andy Ainslie.

Commissioner Philip von Hanstein thought the regulations would be government overreach.

“Just where does it end?” asked Commissioner von Hanstein.

Commissioner Ben Riden and Chairman Ron Milton were more open to the regulations. Riden thought it wouldn’t be fair to regulate businesses like in-home daycares but not in-home classes. Milton worried that no regulations would lead to in-home classes disturbing nearby neighbors.

Commissioner Donald Harris, Ainslie and Riden ended up voting to approve the measure with Commissioner von Hanstein voting against the regulations.

The BOC also debated proposed regulations to limit the number of livestock animals allowed on properties under five acres. The council could not come to compromise and tabled the proposed regulations for the second month in a row.

Under the proposed regulations, there would be no restrictions on the number of livestock for properties of five acres or more.

Properties between two and five acres would be restricted to no more than four sheep, goats or alpacas, no more than 20 hens that must be kept inside an enclosure. No rooster would be allowed. Properties under two acres would be prohibited from possessing any livestock with the exception of up to six hens for non-commercial use. Hens must be kept in an enclosure and no roosters are allowed.

The new regulations also call for banning any livestock on platted subdivision, even on lots equal or greater than five acres, unless the subdivision was developed under specific agricultural or equestrian design.

According to Jarrell, the planning department devised these regulations in response to increased requests to have livestock on smaller tracts of land and complaints from neighbors bothered by nearby livestock.

“Right now when people ask if they can have certain livestock on their property or people call to complain about livestock, I can’t tell them anything because we don’t have any regulations,” said Jarrell.

But the commissioners couldn’t reach a compromise upon which they were comfortable to vote.

Commissioner von Hanstein believed the regulations would create more work for the planning department and become another “tax” on citizens.

“This could require another employee to enforce these. That’s just another tax on our citizens,” said von Hanstein, who also feared some horse owners in the county would be forced to give up their horses under the new regulations.

Commissioner Riden did not want to have impose any new regulations on properties larger than two acres. Riden and von Hanstein also wanted subdivisions to “self-govern” instead of looking to the county for regulations, suggesting each homeowner association pass covenants restricting livestock.

“This really should fall back on them, so we don’t have to worry about it,” said Riden.

“I think the subdivisions should take care of this,” said von Hanstein. 

“I would like to ponder this a little longer,” said Commissioner Ainslie. “I am not against it, but my wheels are turning and I am not sure.”

Commissioner Donald Harris was more supportive of regulations.

“In life we have rules and regulations and we need them to know what we can and cannot do,” said Harris.

But the council voted to table the proposed livestock regulations again to give the planning department the opportunity to tweak restrictions until the next regular meeting.

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