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Commissioners second-guessing their unanimous vote on zoning changes

Despite last month’s unanimous approval of updated zoning regulations, some Washington County commissioners are apparently having second thoughts.
“Clearly I made a mistake in not including the regulations in the packet,” Commission Chair Greg Matherly said during a meeting of the Zoning Administration Oversight Committee on Nov. 5.
Rather than including the full 421-page document, only the first few pages, including the Zoning Revision Subcommittee and the table of contents, were in the packet that went to commissioners prior to the Oct. 28 meeting.
The agenda referred commissioners to the county website to look at the full document.
After a brief discussion during the October meeting, the adoption of the new regulations received unanimous approval.
Matherly said he since has received calls from multiple commissioners regarding those regulations.
“They’re saying it’s hard to identify the changes,” he told zoning staff members.
Special Projects Coordinator Troy Ebbert offered to provide a summary of the revisions.
“Or we can send out the full document with the lines struck through (indicating the adjustments); it’s a difference between 200 and 500 pages,” he said.
Matherly said the amount of confusion requires action.
“I feel there will be further discussion in upcoming meetings, and I want to do everything we can to clear up the confusion beforehand,” he said.
Commissioner Gearld Sparks seconded Matherly’s motion to mail a copy of the regulations in a format that allows commissioners to see both the original regulations and the changes. The motion passed unanimously.
Zoning Administrator Mike Rutherford objected to the expense his department would incur from printing a color copy for each commissioner.
“This document has been in circulation for six months,” he noted.
Rutherford said many of the regulations are determined by state law and the Washington County Regional Planning Commission, not the staff.
“The planning commission is the regulatory agency. That’s their document, they can explain their justification,” he said. “They need to stop blaming the staff.”
According to Rutherford, his office held workshops for commissioners and builders to go through the new regulations line by line, but they were poorly attended.
A subcommittee of the Washington County Regional Planning Commission and county commission meet weekly for four months and completed revisions to the zoning regulations in October 2012.
Groundwater problems and recovery from flash floods in the Dry Creek area delayed the presentation of the new regulations.