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Comp plan on hold

Ellis County Planning and Zoning commissioners at their Wednesday night meeting agreed to take more time to consider details of the county’s comprehensive plan before taking a vote on the document.

After an overview of the plan was presented by RDG Planning & Design Project Manager Amy Haase to the planning commissioners, three audience members and City Manager Greg Sund, commissioners decided to table a vote on the document until August.

The comprehensive plan process, under way for more than a year, has evolved through input of a steering committee and county residents.

The comprehensive plan, Haase said is intended to be a tool for decision-making.

Planning and zoning commissioners questioned Haase on whether protest petitions for wind energy development would be allowed once a comprehensive plan has been adopted.

“Yes, but they (protest petitioners) should be aware when they buy a piece of property, especially if they’re in the agricultural energy zone, that those (wind energy) developments can occur in those areas,” she said. “If you’re going to buy out there and build out there, you need to be aware this will be occurring around you.”

Having a comprehensive plan in place that addresses energy development in the county with established rules instead of on a case-by-case basis through conditional-use permits, could benefit the county by making joint planning commission decisions less “political,” Sund said.

Without zoning rules in place, some zoning commission rulings could be left open to criticism, he said.

“It has to do with who you are, how well you get along with your neighbors, whether your neighbors complain or not,” Sund said. “Not good planning decisions.”

Haase agreed.

“I think you need to have a base set of rules that everybody has to play to,” she said.

Lance Russell, Ellis County resident, asked Sund to clarify his statement in relation to developing a wind farm within the county. Specifically, if the comprehensive plan is in place, and zoning regulations align with the comprehensive plan, Russell asked if a wind farm would be permitted within the county.

Sund said it would be.

However, laying plans for future land use involves not only energy development, Sund added, but also for housing and industrial uses.

“You make rules and decisions based on good planning that has proper setbacks or proper safety features,” he said. “As long as you think the process through and establish reasonable rules, people can do it.

“It doesn’t become a political issue every single time for every development.”

Planning and zoning commissioners will address the comprehensive plan at their August meeting.

Once the plan has been approved by the planning and zoning commission, a public hearing of Ellis County Commissioners will allow residents another opportunity for input.