Zoning Ordinance Approved By Montgomery Co. Area Plan Commission

May 29, 2019

The Montgomery County Area Plan Commission held its second public hearing on a proposed zoning ordinance.
Credit Taylor Haggerty / WBAA News

The Montgomery County Area Plan Commission has passed the county’s contentious zoning ordinance, following another night of debate Wednesday.

The Plan Commission had earlier tried to send county commissioners the ordinance without a recommendation, but it was sent back to the Plan Commission following a re-reading of state statute which shows such a move is illegal for a first-time zoning ordinance.

The discussion has been hurried by the threat of legal action from a wind company hoping to develop in the area. The draft language includes strict limitations for any turbines built in the county.

The ordinance is designed, in part, to prevent large-scale wind projects from being built in the county, but many of the citizens who spoke in roughly ninety minutes of public comment Wednesday night said that was forcing them to choose between two options many don’t like – zoning and wind energy.

Resident Miriah Mershon opposes wind energy in the county, and says the zoning ordinance was rushed. But she still spoke in favor of it to the commission.

“And unfortunately I have to tell you I’d rather chew my arm off than really agree with you tonight, but I do request that we send a favorable recommendation for this zoning bill,” Mershon told the commission.

Commissioner John Frey is a member of the Plan Commission. He says he doesn’t understand where those feelings are coming from.

Frey says the zoning ordinance is based on a comprehensive plan created with the input of residents, and reflects what the county wants.

“I don’t understand that. I don’t understand it. You know, there’s nothing in that comprehensive plan that was not put there by our people,” Frey says.

Resident Rob Webster claims the county hasn’t been open about plans for zoning, including how the zoning board will be funded.

“We need to open a dialogue between us, and if I’m wrong – I haven’t seen anything about how we’re going to fund this and how it’s going to be paid for,” Webster says.

Commission member Tammy Meyers voted against the ordinance. She says it fails to address several other developments listed as “undesirable” in the county’s new comprehensive plan, like confined animal feeding operations, landfills and low-income housing.

“All of those other things that the will of the people spoke out about, aren’t included in this,” Meyers says. “So again, in trying to meet the will of the people, this seems rushed and incomplete.”

The ordinance still passed 5-3.