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Here’s the latest on proposed changes to Dawson County’s land use rules
Dawson County logo file photo
File photo.

Members on Dawson County’s Board of the Commissioners were almost ready to say “yes” to proposed land use rule changes during their most recent voting session. 

This story continues below.

However, the board ultimately tabled the proposed changes again until their March 16 voting session.

“Now that there’s a final version, I would like to have the time to go through it and read through it again now that it’s finalized,” District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines told Planning and Development Director Sharon Farrell. “I know this has been a long, long process, and you’ve put in a lot of time, energy and effort into it, and I appreciate that.”

District 3 Commissioner Alexa Bruce seconded her colleague’s views, explaining that she’d now like to “look at it as a brand new document.” 

District 1 Commissioner Seth Stowers added that he’d also like to “see the clean document and not get caught up in red [marked] changes.”

The board’s decision followed their decision to table a Jan. 19 vote on the changes. 

During the board’s March 2 voting session, Farrell explained the further changes across 100-plus pages of the land use regulations. 

Farrell said that further edits were done in response to phone calls and other communication from area engineers, architects, property and homeowners. Some areas of the code were reorganized so her staff could better see and use it when doing plan reviews. 

A file with the proposed changes is available on Planning’s Land Use and Zoning webpage under the “Supporting Documents” subhead. 

Suggested land use amendments include but are not limited to the following: 

Accessory structures

Language was further crafted to say that non-dwelling structures are not allowed to be connected to utilities and used as a dwelling. Those types of structures can include campers, travel trailers, recreational vehicles, motor homes, buses and utility buildings. Area residents previously spoke out about this provision, given the difficulty numerous locals have had with finding adequate housing.

Residential businesses

Home occupations or businesses are permitted on all land use categories on three acres except for RS-2 and RS-3, RT and RMF. 

Lower parking requirements

The amount of asphalt necessary was reduced for commercial entities.

“Most franchises now know what they need. A lot of that stuff (requirements) is based on a Christmas Eve [type] need,” Farrell said. 

Stream buffers

Now, the proposed land use changes would require a 50-foot undisturbed vegetative buffer from river banks. No septic tanks or septic drain fields would be allowed in protected areas. Previous versions of stream buffer changes included stricter language that’s now been removed. However, the proposed ordinance states that the county is “not stopped from adopting stipulations that exceed minimum requirements.” 

Residential density

Under the changes, density standards would be clarified to refer to “net density or net buildable area.” Density would then exclude any wetlands, state waters, constrained lands, and/or water bodies for a proposed project area. In 2022, developers for multiple proposed residential and mixed-use projects encountered concerns about density with the BOC and Dawson County Planning Commission when discussing land with or near wetlands and bodies of water. 

Other proposals

In residential agricultural-zoned land, any structures being constructed and/or renovated for assembly “are subject to commercial building codes and Life Safety code requirements.”

Screening requirements for automobile wrecking, junkyards and body shops were also strengthened. Similarly, pump locations relevant to roads and right of ways were specified. As well, regulations were added for how to conduct cell tower balloon tests and give appropriate notice to area residents. 

“Authentic, non-franchised restaurants” were included as an allowed use within mixed-use village districts. 

Near the end of her comments on March 2, Farrell called the current iteration of Dawson County’s Land Use Resolution “a great starting point.”

“If we miss something, we can come back when we’re working on the [2023] 

Comprehensive Plan and make changes,” she said.