Two of 100 zoning map changes requests are continued |

Two of 100 zoning map changes requests are continued

Sheila Gardner

Douglas County commissioners heard nearly 100 requests Thursday from property owners seeking changes in the zoning district map designations.

At the conclusion of the five-hour process, the board voted to continue two requests to April 3: discussion of the so-called “Orchard Road corridor” in East Valley and a request for multiple zoning on a 1,750-acre parcel in South County whose owner, Evan Allred, argues has a right to historic multiple-zoning uses.

With the absence of commission Chair Jacques Etchegoyhen due to illness, the board tied 2-2 whether to allow 5-acre parcels on a strip of land at the southern end of the “Orchard Road corridor.” Other property in the corridor is zoned 10-acre, but the disputed segment is surrounded by 2- to 5-acre parcels which is the zoning the owners sought.

“This whole character of this area has changed,” said property owner Jody Laxague, in requesting the new zoning.

John Doughty, the county’s planning-economic development manager, told commissioners that master plan policy indicated the Orchard Road corridor would be 10-acre parcels, but there is no map which identifies the area.

“This is the most controversial request you will have to deal with,” he said. “The big concern is irrigation.”

Doughty said there were no legal or planning reasons why the segment could not be changed.

Commissioners Bernie Curtis and Kelly Kite voted to leave the property 10-acre, and commissioners Don Miner and Steve Weissinger supported the Laxague request. The board voted to defer action until Etchegoyhen can review the record and cast his tie-breaking vote.

The question of the Allred property came up at the end of the evening. Attorney George Keele, representing Allred, argued that the 1,750-acre Sleeping Elephant Ranch in South County is entitled to the density which accompanies its historic C-3 hotel/commercial designation.

“County commissioners at the time of the master plan said with a receiving area you will preserve all your underlying zoning,” Keele said.

The former C-3 zoning permits 10 multiple family residential units per acre. At 87 acres under the old zoning, the property owner would be entitled to 870 units.

“I can’t possibly imagine what we would do with 87 acres of gaming commercial zoning,” Keele said.

Commissioners asked Keele to meet with staff and return April 3 with a recommendation.

Commissioners also changed the “rural residential” to “rural agricultural,” reflecting the concerns of property owners who feared the “residential” designation would open the door for more property restrictions.

Commissioner Bernie Curtis urged the change “to recognize agricultural uses.”

Deputy district attorney Tom Perkins said legally, rural residential and rural agricultural had the same uses, the only change being the name. Perkins said the assessor appraises property based on market value, not zoning, but if the property became more valuable as a result of the zoning, the owner might have to pay more taxes.

Valida McMichael who lives in South County, objected to the change because she said the “residential” designation made it possible for her to secure a home equity loan.

“There’s no legal difference between the two,” Perkins said. “A homeowner could provide copies to the lending institution. The only thing changed is the name of the district.”

The zoning map designation hearings implement the development code and land use element included in the master plan last year. County staff sent out nearly 19,000 notices to property owners reflecting the changes in the zoning maps.

In several instances, commissioners granted the zone map changes. Petitions were denied by the board where applicants desired master plan amendments. In a few cases, commissioners directed staff-initiated master plan amendments which means property owners don’t have to pay the fees.