Zoning for a portion of Gage County west of Beatrice will not be changed after the Board of Supervisors unanimously rejected a proposal to change the zoning from AG-1 to AG-4.
The request was filed by Ron Mazza to change an area of Lincoln Township north of Ellis.
Mazza said the change would protect his organic farm in the area from an anhydrous ammonia operation that the county previously denied a special use permit for, a decision currently being appealed.
“Bringing industrial ag changes the composure of this area,” he said. “We’re trying to maintain the harmony of what makes up this neighborhood. We’re not trying to make it not ag… By changing the paper zoning you’re restoring harmony to the area so we don’t have these ongoing battles over and over again,” he said.
County regulations define AG-1 as a district is designated for general agriculture use intended to preserve and protect agriculture production from encroachment by incompatible uses.
AG-4, an urban reserve district, is intended to provide for low-density, acreage residential development in selected areas in close proximity to towns or in rural areas with reasonable access to major rural roads.
Generally, these districts are located near urban and built-up areas within reasonable reach of fire protection and hard surfaced roads.
Board member Terry Jurgens pointed out that the Planning and Zoning Commission previously recommended not changing the zoning, and that adjusting small areas here and there in Gage County qualifies as spot zoning.
“This is spot zoning," Jurgens said. “It’s highly illegal. Common sense would tell you this is ag as it’s zoned right now. Planning and Zoning denied this application 5-0. They’re following the rules we have in place right now. It would be highly irregular to go against Planning and Zoning. They know the ins and outs.”
Board member John Hill agreed, saying that amending the zoning classification would show special treatment and added that the county’s zoning regulations are currently being updated, which could impact this and other areas.
“In reality, it looks too much like spot zoning to approve this without a countywide reassessment of our planning and zoning, which is kind of underway,” he said. “When I look at the zoning map there are areas where you question why some are zoned one way versus others being zoned a similar way. At this time, I think that process needs to proceed.”
The proposal would have grandfathered in current uses of the land, but require that future uses meet different requirements.
The area in question was recently the subject of a proposed anhydrous ammonia operation. The County Board rejected a permit in March from Holtmeier Brothers Inc. to add two 30,000-gallon tanks, a scale and outbuilding located five miles west of Beatrice and two miles north of Ellis on 117th Road.
In April, Holtmeier Brothers Inc. filed an appeal in Gage County District Court after the board voted 3-4 to reject the special use permit. The board rejected the permit, despite the fact that the operation met all setback requirements, following an outcry from area residents concerned about the safety in the event of a leak, damage to the roads and even potential theft of the chemical by drug manufacturers.
Terri Sue Mazza added that the request would prevent the couple and others in the area from worrying that fertilizer tanks or other unwanted operations would attempt to develop in the area, which has six nearby residences.
“The reason we are going for this rezoning is because we know this is going to be an ongoing issue and problem in our neighborhood,” she said. “It’s not going to stop with anhydrous ammonia. We’re going to keep coming back to this room on Wednesdays fighting special permits. The only recourse we can see to end this nonsense and move forward peacefully is to get a rezoning.”