Agricultural ordinance revisions clear planning commission
February 15, 2017
A program that allowed ranchers to set aside a small parcel every five years to help them stay in agriculture has only been used a handful of times since it was implemented eight years ago.
While modified to allow those who own more than 100 acres of agricultural land to set aside three 2-5 acre parcels ever 15 years, one recent participant said the process was so expensive he's going to have to sell the parcels to recoup his costs.
"I just got done doing three parcels for 15 years," resident Nate Leising said. "Because of the expense to put in infrastructure and having property taxes go up, instead of having those for family, they're all going to get sold right away to pay for what I've had to do."
Complicating the issue was a disagreement between property owners and county staff over the implementation of the county ordinance approved in 2008 after the 2007 master plan update.
"The ordinance was designed to let agricultural land owners preserve irrigated agricultural land while providing additional parcels for next generations or to sell to raise capital," Planner Heather Ferris told planning commissioners on Tuesday. "The goal was preserving the bulk of ag land."
Originally, the ordinance allowed one 2-acre parcel every five years, but because of the cost associated with developing the land, the county altered the ordinance last year to allow three 2-5 acre parcels over 15 years. Should a rancher choose to take advantage of the program the parcels could be split off now, but the rancher would have to wait 15 years to do it again.
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On Tuesday, planning commissioners recommended a change in the code that property owners Kent and Mark Neddenriep and Marie Johnson said would help fix issues with the code.
They protested, however, the inclusion of a requirement that property owners submit to the subdivision process.
Kent Neddenriep pointed out that unlike the serial parceling process, the subdivision process required substantial involvement by the state.
"There are two ways you can create more than four parcels," he told planning commissioners. "You can use a serial parcel map or subdivision map. The county can impose the same requirements on both, so there's no difference, and in the end you have the same result."
Neddenriep pointed out that the need to get state signatures for a subdivision map is an obstacle.
"The state process is very onerous, especially when wells or septics are involved," he said. "I submit that there hasn't been a subdivision map approved by the state in 10 years."
Planning commissioners agreed to strike the requirement, leaving the decision up to planning staff instead.
The revised ordinance will go to Douglas County commissioners for discussion of final approval.
In other business, planning commissioners set the date for the 2017 master plan workshop for June 6-7. The first day will be set aside for master plan amendments. The second day will be when planning commissioners review the master plan elements. The planning commission will discuss taking action on the update at its regular July meeting before sending it to the Douglas County Board of Commissioners.