Cole County zoning meetings kick off with small crowd

A small crowd came out Tuesday night for the first public meeting to discuss the proposal for zoning in Cole County.

The group at the St. Martin’s Knights of Columbus Hall heard a synopsis of the plan. Dick Peerson, co-chair of the zoning oversight committee, said his group had been working on it for the last five years.

“By state law, all that the county legally has to do is the put the question of whether or not to have zoning to a vote of the people,” he said. “They don’t require a map or a plan, but we wanted to give voters as much information as possible. We’re not here to keep people from doing things.”

The County Commission has said the measure will be on the August ballot.

There are nine zoning districts in the plan with the agriculture category making up the majority of the county with the minimum lot area for that zoning being five acres. Other categories include residential commercial zoning, residential single family and residential multi-family as well as general commercial and large industrial categories.

Shannon Kliethermes, senior planner for the Cole County Public Works Department, said 19 counties in the state have zoning.

“Agriculture practices are not regulated by zoning,” he said. “Zoning doesn’t change your taxation status and zoning can be changed or amended.

“If it is adopted, then the plan and map would have to finalized and ratified by the county planning and zoning committee. It then goes to the county commission who would have to hold hearings in all the townships before taking a final vote to adopt the plan.”

One member of the audience asked how zoning could help him pass his farm down to his children while keeping officials in Jefferson City from telling him what to do. He was concerned Jefferson City would be exempt from county zoning, but its residents still get to vote on the measure.

“I have a farm of my own and I’d hate to see a salvage yard come in next door,” said Cole County Public Works Director Larry Benz. “Right now there’s nothing to protect us from something like that. With zoning at least there’s a chance for you to have input on what happens in your area.”

Three more information meetings are scheduled:

• Thursday at the Russellville Elementary School cafeteria;

• May 6 at the Wardsville Lions Club; and

• June 9 at the Cole County Emergency Management classroom on Southridge Drive.

All meetings start at 7 p.m.

A copy of the zoning plan is available on the county’s website, www.colecounty.org. It’s on the public works page under the planning tab.

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