Variance requests result in denial
Two public hearings for special use permits resulted in denial of recommendation by the Ward County Planning and Zoning Commission Thursday night.
Planning and Zoning recommendations are just that, explained Commissioner Shelly Weppler, who is also a Ward County Commissioner. The recommendations can be either given or denied which will form an official input on a hearing on each matter in front of the five county commissioners. Whether the matter is approved or denied there is the final say.
The interesting facet of the denial is that the two permit requests were very similar to each other, although they are each for two separate counties. Both, if public input is any indication, point to a bit of culture shock.
The first request, made by Roger Johnson on behalf of his Omaha, Neb., based business Badlands Tank Lines, LLC, is to allow for him to build a mechanic shop and a filling station on his property in Kirkelie Township. The filling station is already allowed under Zoning District 2, where the property is, so the public hearing was not to discuss the filling station matter. Only one person attempted to discuss the filling station to make sure that the commissioners, if approved, recognize a discreet definition for a filling station as a place for the public to fill up their vehicles with fuel and that it would not be a special-interests filling station catering to large semi-trucks only.
That is where the heart of the discussion fell.
According to Johnson's LinkedIn.com profile, Badlands Tank Lines is a "Crude Oil Truck transportation and related marketing services" company. This, community members felt, didn't jive with the "boarding house," which is what the building currently on his property is officially defined as.
Community members mentioned that at one time they had counted 13 semi-trucks on the property, and that tenants of the boarding house, where the rooms are 8 by 10 feet and share communal bathrooms and kitchens, have been the sort of people they don't want around. They cite garbage littering their roadways, and people walking across their properties in a non-neighborly manner. One area man described, in vivid detail, an encounter he had with a man who was walking across his property swaying back in forth in an obviously drunken manner and yet denied being inebriated.
The property owner is a large man who works in various rescue and emergency capacities and yet the incident, which went on and got somewhat disturbing, left him with an uneasy feeling he hadn't felt before and for the first time he felt like investigating security systems to protect his home, family, and foster children. He said that the type of people Johnson has brought to the area are not the type he wants around.
The same sentiment was expressed by almost all of the community members.
In his defense, Johnson had said that he was new to planning and zoning regulations and that he had been out of the area and hadn't managed his property nor performed adequate background checks on his tenants but that recent events have made him take a more direct hand in the property. He also said that there was one day where he had allowed some trucks to be on the property, but they were supposed to come two at a time. Unfortunately, he said, an unforeseen circumstance made them arrive en masse. He also said that he was willing to put into writing that he would work with the township to monetarily support them in their road maintenance efforts and that only unloaded trucks would pass through.
The second public hearing was for a zoning change application for a property in McKinley Township by Terry and Joined Striefel.
The petitioners did not speak at the hearing, although there were a few community members there to speak against it.
Al Hanson, a retired Minot Police officer and township resident, handed the commissioners a letter against the proposed application change to Commercial-2 zoning signed by 18 area people, including at least 11 people who live on the road the property is located on. The reason the number of people who lived on the road in question was mentioned is because a woman in the audience asked "but how many live on the road?" before being told she was out of order by commission Chairman Kevin Connole.
The problem with the zoning change, community members summarized, is that the Striefels have not adequately explained what it is they want to do with the property, although it seems as though they want to use it as a place to park semi-trucks. Since they did not speak at the hearing, the issue is still mysterious.
A second reading and public hearing was held on proposed changes to the county planning and zoning ordinances. The commission moved that the staff members, including Planning and Zoning Administrator Amber Turnquest and Highway Engineer Dana Larsen, were moving in the right direction and that a future public hearing will be held after they implement further refinements.
A total of 12 plat applications were approved. Five applications for properties in Baden Township submitted by William Johnson were recommended by commission approval by the township board, but with reservations. The reservations come about because the owner wants to put a rail-to-truck loading system on the property but the Township doesn't want it. Basically, Larsen summarized, under the zoning Johnson will be able to do agriculture or put a house on the property. With the exception of Commissioner Norman Livingston the first four were unanimously recommended by the commission. On the fifth one Livingston voted "yes," but, perhaps in keeping with the idea of not "rubber-stamping" everything, Commissioner David Kopp voted "no."