Our Opinion: Cole County voters urged to study zoning issue

Zoning must balance the interests of property owners and developers.

Credit the drafters of Cole County’s proposed zoning regulations with pursuing that dual goal.

The stated purpose of the 102-page document is “to provide predictable standards and a streamlined development process that promotes economic development and protects property rights.”

The zoning regulations have been created, according to the document, to “balance the interests of neighborhoods and the county as a whole,” and “to work cooperatively with property owners and developers to ensure that these regulations are predictable and development friendly.”

The Cole County Commission, the county’s three-member governing body, voted last week to place the zoning issue on the Aug. 5 ballot.

The zoning proposal is a detailed document.

The specifics reflect four years of work by members of the county’s Zoning Advisory Committee, commission, public works staff and planning committee. The proposal was developed from the 2010 Cole County Master Plan.

The proposal establishes nine zoning districts, including: agriculture; single-family residential; multi-family residential; neighborhood commercial; general commercial urban; general commercial rural; light industrial; heavy industrial; and planned development. A floodplain overlay also is included.

Other provisions outline: development standards; procedures, including conditional use permits, appeals and variances; supplemental use regulations, including signs and telecommunications towers; nonconforming uses and structures; and oversight and enforcement.

County officials have hosted a series of public meetings about the proposal; another is scheduled for 7 p.m. June 9 at the Cole County Emergency Management classroom on Southridge Drive.

Cole County is growing and developing. In the absence of zoning standards, some county residents have experienced the growing pains posed by undesirable or nonconforming neighbors.

The proposed zoning regulations appear both reasonable and comprehensive.

We encourage county residents — both property owners and developers — to review them, and we look forward to discussion and debate on this important issue.

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