Some rural Gage County residents are hoping to change the zoning classification of their area and potentially restrict future use of the land.

The County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing Wednesday regarding Ron Mazza’s request to change an area of Lincoln Township north of Ellis from the current AG-1 to an AG-4 designation.

The proposal would grandfather in current uses of the land, but would require that future uses meet different requirements.

“Approving this request to clarify the zoning would simply mean zoning would reflect the current and longstanding use of the property,” Mazza said, “which contains several residences and has more existing planned residences immediately adjacent to it.”

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.

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.

The County Board is expected to vote on the proposal to rezone the area at its next meeting on June 21, though most members were weary of making the change, primarily due to showing special treatment to the home owners by “spot zoning” the area in question.

“This is spot zoning, and it’s highly illegal,” said board member Terry Jurgens. “Spot zoning a small parcel of land singled out for special or privileged treatment, singled out is not in public interest but only for the benefit of the land owner, the action is not in accord with the county’s comprehensive plan. It fails all three.”

Gage County Planning and Zoning previously held its own hearing on the proposal, and unanimously recommended that the County Board not change the zoning classification.

Dennis Rosene, Chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, told the board it could open the county up to more requests of special treatment.

“At our meeting, it was pointed out that if you go to the plat book you’ll find that there’s many situations in the county where there are rural houses that may have been there prior to zoning regulations,” he said. “…If you were to look at those you would find similar situations. If you use that argument, you would have a hodgepodge of AG-4 all over the place. We felt seriously that it’s very much a spot zoning situation.”

Reach Scott Koperski at scott.koperski@beatricedailysun.com. Follow him on Twitter @ScottKoperski.

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