Gage County Planning and Zoning is hoping to strike a balance between the rights of homeowners and farmers in a set of revamped regulations.

The commission is reevaluating its comprehensive plans for zoning regulations, with assistance from Hanna:Keelan Associates of Lincoln.

The commission met Tuesday evening to continue zoning talks, and how they can be tweaked to better serve the county.

Dennis Rosene, chairman of the commission, said that setbacks and how land is classified remain hot issues at hearings for special use permits.

As “clusters” of homes have been built in close proximity to each other in rural areas, the county has been asked to spot zone these areas, which has been controversial and has lead to some heated public hearings.

“We kind of talked about the number of residences in AG-1 and AG-2,” he said. “Ag 1 has four residences per quarter section, and the issue we talked about is if those four are at an intersection, there are 16 at a section in AG-1.

“We’ve come across situations where people want to build, rezone or feel that they want to go to AG-4 because there’s a cluster of houses there.”

County regulations define AG-1 as a district that 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.

Commission member Terry Acton added that most of the issues with zoning regulations stem from livestock operations, rather than crop farmers.

“The thing that gets them in trouble is animal agriculture,” he said. “Running the planter and combine is so seasonal, they’re in and out and gone. These big clusters where you get these big homes, it isn’t so much just the smell from the facility, it’s when you go haul the manure away, as well.”

Members from Hanna:Keelan have been working to implement new regulations, a process that was estimated to take around eight months.

The County Board of Supervisors approved an agreement with Hanna:Keelan Associates in April to reexamine the zoning regulations and comprehensive plan at a cost of $14,000.

Gage County adopted zoning regulations in 1997 and Hanna:Keelan last updated the regulations in 2010.

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

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