Public hearing draws concerns over zoning ordinances

The Cameron City Council once again heard from several citizens concerned about the proposed zoning ordinance during a public hearing on April 1.

Seven Cameron residents were on hand to voice their concerns over the ordinance. Concerns ranged from the use of the term “contractor’s yard” to questions about livestock use and proposed zoning areas.

Resident Stephen Fuchs voiced concerns over recent changes the definition of contractor’s yard and to a possible zoning allowance for contractor’s yards in the Commercial II zone.

“I live at 104 Spanish Oak Trail,” Fuchs said. “I have been here for my entire life. In this proposed ordinance there has been a very recent change not only to the definition of contractor’s yard but also a change to possible zoning allowing a contractor’s yard not only in Industrial and Light Industrial but also in Commercial II. This will place my neighbor - a self-described contractor’s yard - in the position to just need a specific use permit to locate in a Commercial zone legally.”

Fuchs went on to explain why a contractor’s yard belongs in Industrial and Light Industrial. 

“From my personal experience a contractor’s yard produces excessive exhaust, vibrations, lights, noise,” he said. “They have no set hours of operation and no limits to the size and nature of the equipment they have and their stored materials.”

Fuchs said his neighbor runs businesses in other cities where they have 700 feet, 1,300 feet, and 3,000 feet to the nearest homes. 

“In contrast their Cameron location shares property lines with a 13-home 34-year-old subdivision parking semi-trucks, trailers and equipment 60 feet from where my children play and 100 feet from where I eat dinner,” Fuchs said. “The amount of personal investment of homebuilding within the city limits deserves protection. I built my home in a subdivision. As part of city planning my home should be protected from devaluation. When industrial businesses operate within short distances from homes you see property devaluation. A contractor’s yard should not be Commercial II in this new zoning proposal. They should not be close to residential areas.”

Fuchs requested to delay of the first reading of the ordinance – which was set for later that night - until changes were made for contractor’s yards to only be allowed in Industrial and Light Industrial. 

“I also say that special use permits should be more specific,” Fuchs said. “Levels need to be defined. Furthermore why are we passing zoning ordinances without a map? How can the city come before you and argue this if we don’t know what these new things are going to be? This has implications not only now but in the future.”

Mayor Connie Anderle said the council could not answer during the hearing but were taking notes and will address all issues with those that brought them up.

Resident Gladys Lee said she has been speaking with several people about the new zoning over the last few weeks including City Manager Rhett Parker.

“I have concerns over what exactly I am supposed to be,” Lee said. “I am Industrial right now because I am beside a railroad track. I have three acres. We have had this land since 1960 and now I understand I am going to be limited to what I can have.”

Lee asked council to clarify whether she would be able to keep the land in the same use that she currently has.

Neil Bhakta, owner of Budget Host Inn, asked the council to think about the current businesses in town when changing zoning.

“I just came here to talk about the new zoning laws,” Bhakta said. “You can see that I am located in the industrial zone. When I built the hotel it was a business park. This changed a few years back to industrial. So if I had some new big industry come in beside me, do you think my customers can sleep day and night? How are we going to run our business? When you change your ordinances and zoning you need to think about already existing businesses.”

Several concerns were voiced over grandfathering and what will be done concerning property that is currently used for agricultural use.

“I appreciate you taking the time to listen to us,” Jeremy Vaculin said. “I am here in concern of the 21.5 acres I own. I came in before I bought it and talked with the city. It was agricultural grandfathered to where you can keep livestock on it. Everybody knows me and I am big into livestock. My son rodeos and my kids show. I cleaned that place up and I recently purchased three acres and two houses right next to it. My question is on the map it shows that the line runs right through my property and half of it is commercial and half is industrial. From what I read commercial and industrial says no livestock.”

Vaculin said the whole purpose of buying the property was so his family could do what they wanted to do.

“I was willing to clean it up and pay city taxes,” he said. “I have a business here in town and I like this community. I think it is a great ag-based community. My question is if this passes what is in writing that says my place is grandfathered and what is in writing that says if I sell it being that it is an ag-based property can I sell it as an ag-based property?”

He said that he has spoken with several council members and they have all told him they are pretty sure his property is grandfathered. He asked for a definition of grandfathering to make sure that everyone knows exactly what will happen to their property.

John Anderle spoke on his concerns about the need for special use permits for existing businesses.

“I just want to speak on my concerns on this as it pertains to the lumberyard,” he said.  “We have been at that location since 1985. Reading the ordinance some of the wording concerning displaying, storage and selling is unclear. I am concerned about how we are going to display the same things that we have had on display since 1985. One of the wordings that concerns me is that I would have to have a special use permit to sell something that we have always had there that we have kept nice and clean and is not a hindrance to make our town look bad.”

He said he thinks that everything needs to be looked over again. 

“I know we are trying to make Cameron look better and I am all on board,” he said. “But having to get a special use permit for something that sits above the fence, why do we need that to sell something that has been sold there since it was opened?”

The first reading of the ordinance followed the public hearing. The council will hear the second reading of the ordinance before voting on it at their next meeting on April 15.

In other business the council: approved a special use permit for 905 Newton in Cameron; approved a request for the use of the downtown square for Easter Sunrise Services from Abiding Savior Lutheran Church; heard from Jean Schara about establishing a Friends of the Pound non-profit; approved a request for street lights on 1100-1200 West 16th Street; approved the use of the horseshoe pits for April 6, May 18 and Sept. 14 from Andy Layne; approved the purchase of a new maintainer for the Street Department in the amount of $198,000 over nine years; and approved funding repairs to the sewer and manholes on East 6th Street from Lee to Burns. \

The city will host a 12th Street Park Planning and Public Participation Meeting on April 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the OJ Thomas School Band Hall, 1400 W 6th Street. The meeting is for public participation and planning concerning the development of 12th Street Park. 

The next meeting of the City Council will be on April 15 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.