Zoning codes to undergo change

By Jeff Smith

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The Planning and Zoning Commission made some headway on the restructuring of commercial zoning in Hill City at the Jan. 16 meeting. No long-term decisions were made yet but it was decided that commissioners Ron Walker and Rollie Noem would work with Dani Schade, development services coordinator for Hill City, to make progress on defining the types of zoning allowed in each level.

Planning and Zoning Commission chairman Dale Householder said it would be nice to add a brief description of why things are zoned how they are.

There would be a particular set of rules developed by the committee on what certain types of expectation there would be for each level.

Noem originally  thought of the idea of forming a small task force to go through the commercial zoning code. Householder said that the commercial zoning activities that are permitted should be more tuned to fit the needs of Hill City.

Much discussion centered around a list Householder created that had the types of businesses that could fit in C-1 to C-4.

Alderman for the city council, Jim Peterson, said that it is a great idea to look at the code and see what is working. Prior to the current zoning codes there were two zoning districts for commercial.

“We had commercial light industrial which was a catch-all for everything and then commercial business district was commercial but it only applied to the central block of the city,” said Brett McMacken, city adminisrator.

Peterson said the zoning codes were formed from an international scale.

McMacken cautioned against choosing business types to go into each level. He instead suggested using different business categories because there is going to be thousands of different businesses that can be in Hill City which may not exist today.

McMacken said the commission is not going to be able to add every business that is around now or will be in Hill City.

With a more solid foundation of the zoning activity that could be around there would be less zoning issues that are left open to interpretation. Householder said that there will be a smoother process if there is a more concrete criteria. The commissioners will then be able to make easier decisions ahead of time.

McMacken sees C-1 businesses as being least impactful to the surroundings and C-4 as being the most impactful.

Schade thinks that it would be better to keep everything more broad and the less commercial codes would make things easier to understand. According to Schade, it might be a good approach to be mindful of the impact to neighbors when creating the criteria.

Vic Alexander said the town is pretty small and the way things are now was developed over time. There aren’t sections to the town. His point was that different commercial areas separated out.

The planning and zoning commission approved the ordinance draft on the prohibition of the application of unmuffled engine brake compression. In the ordinance it says the only time that it should be used it is going to protect people or property.

Schade said the intent is not to limit engine compression brakes which is recognized as an important safety feature for trucks.

“As far as the prosecution of violators of this ordinance we have to be very realistic that it’s probably not going to happen,” Schade said.

Deputies would need to be trained and a decibel meter would need to be with them.

Schade said the ordinance plus signs would eliminate  unmuffled engine brake compression by 50 percent. The ordinance would grant the city authority to post  signs at entrances into Hill City and at locations determined by the public works director.

Truckers look at the jake brake as a safety feature. Peterson suggested with the signs another part might be outreach to saw mills and truckers to let them know what is going on.

Alderwoman Kathy Skorzewski said having the ordinance on the books would give law enforcement just cause to pull somebody over.

“They are on a time schedule, it should prohibit the behavior,” Skorzewski said.

Jameson Ogborn, owner of Rapid Towing South, has filed an application to change the zoning to C-3 to allow used cars to sell on a lot in front of the mechanic shop. There was also the idea that he could just have a conditional use permit where he would only be able to sell used cars during the winter months.

“This is just something I want to do through the winter months. When we get busy come spring and summer I won’t be doing it,” Ogborn said.

Ogborn said he would be happy if he could display three cars for sell there.

McMacken said that they need to ensure there are places for people to park while they are visiting the mechanic.

Everything needs to be contained on Ogborn’s property and not negatively impacting the surrounding properties.

Schade said that the parcel for Rapid Towing South is zoned C-1 which allows for minor automotive repair. In March of 2017 the business was approved for a conditional use for towing and 48 hours of storage for vehicles that have been towed. When zones are cahnged there is more options available for what could happen in the future. When the zone is C-3 it opens the door for the lot to be used for more than what it is now.

Schade said there has been a struggle with the parking situation and if there are more cars added there could be additional parking problems. Schade said that just for light automotive usage there is supposed to be 10 parking spots. The spots are also supposed to be paved and marked. Schade said it would be ok if the lot wasn’t paved but she would like to see them marked.

“So when customers come in they know what is a legal parking space or not,” Schade said.

The issue with parking revolves around cars blocking access to the road to their house. Ogborn has said in the past that he intends to keep the access clear and was willing to put up no parking signs.

Ogborn said on the meeting on Jan. 16 that there was an employee the time problems were happening that wasn’t complying with Ogborn’s requests.

“The employee that I have now is very conscientious of it,” Ogborn said.

Parking did get tight at the business last summer, Ogborn said.

Noem said he didn’t have a problem with the activity but would like to see a better feel for what is happening with the parking issue.

Householder said we only like to see the used cars there from October to May 1. Householder said he would support conditional use rather than switching the zoning.

McMacken said the application can be amended to have conditional use instead of a zoning change. There will also be time to get a little better idea of how everything is mapped out at the lot.

“So we can count the number of spaces and what’s going to happen when,” McMacken said.

Peterson said there could actually be two maps. One for the winter and one for the summer. Each would define how much space is needed for customers. More discussion on the issue and what is going to be approved will happen at the next meeting.

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