Zoning changes and county appointments

Commissioners have short but productive meeting

LUSK - Discussion regarding current zoning laws, the ongoing revision to the zoning and planning regulations and economic opportunities in Niobrara were a large portion of Tuesday’s commissioner meeting. Zoning changes for Red Herring Cattle Company and The Thurston Family Trust from agriculture to single or multi-family residential were approved. The zoning changes were for small portions of land (less than 10 acres in both instances). Discussion was held regarding the need for these changes and why people have to apply for zoning changes on their own private property out side of city limits when it seemingly impacts no one but themselves. The current zoning regulations are confusing and a bit muddled so the zoning and planning commission along with commissioners are working on a revision.

That being said, JD Wasserburger and Tom Wasserburger, both present for the public hearing portion of the zoning change stated their concerns that zoning laws can have unintended consequences and ultimately impact the ability of Niobrara county to attract and retain families and businesses.

Clarification was given that the re-zoning in these scenarios gives the owners the ability to build their homes on formerly classified agriculture land. It also allows the proper tax status on that property. While the tax status is impacted a rezoning from agriculture to residential does not exempt the property from being used for agriculture purposes. An example was given that the 5(+-) acres in the Thurston application can still be used for animal or crop production around the residential structure.

Zoning changes do not impact recordable deeds and the clerks office does not change a zone just because a recordable deed is submitted for the sale of a property for the purpose of residential structures.

Additional discussion around the economic impacts of various options for the zoning and planning revisions was held. Marilyn Nelson was appointed to the Zoning and Planning Board vacancy.

Following the public hearing and subsequent approvals of the zoning changes Road and Bridget superintendent Fred Thomas reported on the work his department has been doing. They have started on fixing washouts and plan to dig out and re-install the culvert on Silver Springs road. Thomas also updated the commissioners on the railroad crossing closures. He has been reassured that not only with the railroad give timely notice regarding closure of a crossing, but they will not have more than one crossing at a time closed unless there are broken lines it it is absolutely necessary for safety. They are replacing the crossings as quickly as possible and hope to be near the town of Lusk by August 19. During the work at each crossing they will try to flag through those with needed access as much as possible.

Sheriff Starkey and Lusk Police Chief Bo Krein attended the meeting to update regarding the School Resource Officer position and what they hope that will look like in the future. Funding for the position has been secured for the current budget cycle but there is a possibility that the Sheriff’s office will be providing a portion of the expenses in the future since that individual will be going out to Lance Creek school as part of their responsibilities. This will be an ongoing conversation between the county and town.

Sheriff Starkey also reported that Sturgis numbers were down about 30% and Niobrara fortunately only had a few minor incidents related to Sturgis traffic. The walk through for the proposed work on the detention center is set and hopefully work will begin shortly after. Deputies will be helping at the Back to School BBQ on Thursday and both law enforcement agencies will have representatives at the Bike Rodeo on August 26.

Ron Pfister was accepted to replace Adam Dickson on the Community Juvenile Services Board. The new director presented her first update to the board last week and Commissioner Elaine Griffith stated she was very impressed with the work that has been done beginning to set up programs and make connections with various community entities.

The county will be a training site for the August 23 HB 60 training with location TBD based on the number anticipated to attend. The current plan is to host those wanting to attend in the commissioners’ meeting room.

A contract with TY Pickett for pipeline appraisals was approved as well as the consent agenda.