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Planning Commission holds proposed zoning changes
July 17, 2014 Jerry Purvis   

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The Gering Planning Commission met Tuesday night and spent the bulk of its two and half hour meeting dealing with proposed zoning and ordinance changes that have already angered local business owners.

The commission had sent notices to businesses along 10th Street that a proposed zoning change from heavy industrial to business commercial had be continues, in effect put on hold until more information could be gathered by city staff. However, commission member Gunther Koob wanted to hear from the public before any action was taken.

Several business owners said they no longer trusted the city because of what they called “bait and switch” when the city changed the areas to be considered for zoning changes after the business owners were notified but before a public hearing was held.

Others were confused over the legal term to continue the public hearing. Some thought discussion over the proposed zoning change would continue to be on the agenda. But legal counsel explained the term meant the proposal would be put on hold until further notice. And other business owners were concerned that if the discussion came up again, they wouldn’t be notified s required by state statute.

“All those legal requirements have to be met before we can take any action,” said Gering City Administrator Lane Danielzuk.

Several people in the gallery asked the commission to kill the proposal entirely and take it up again when the city has done more research. But legal counsel again stated the item on the agenda was whether or not to continue the public hearing, and the terms couldn’t legally be changed.

Concerns over the zoning change have been going on for some time. Affected business owners said the changes would hamper their ability to expand their businesses or to sell them for its intended purpose.

Commission members voted to continue the proposal and emphasized that no discussion or further action would be taken until the city had pulled more research together.

Another proposed ordinance change would have removed livestock sale barns and auctions, as well as slaughter houses, from permitted zoning to use by special exemption.

Again, business owners said it would negatively affect their operations. The change would also make it more difficult to sell the businesses because the new owner would have to apply with the city for an exception.

Jerry Weekes, owner of Platte Valley Livestock Auction, said he received no notice of the meeting but said the change would be an illegal taking from his operation. “Whenever you change the zoning, you’re taking something away from somebody,” he said. “If you do that, there has to be some kind of compensation.”

But Planning Commission Chairman Dick Ross said the proposed change had nothing to do with zoning, but with permitted uses under current city ordinances within existing heavy industrial zoning.

Almost an hour of public hearing followed, but it became clear that business owners wanted no part of the change. So commission members voted to eliminate the new verbiage from the existing ordinance, effectively letting the existing ordinance stand.
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