As Camden County delves into the colossal task of changing the Camden County Unified Land Use Code (ULUC) to make it relevant to the Lake of the Ozarks, they have opened the process to lake citizens.
There were 35 citizens at the first public hearing on the proposed changes, held by the Camden County Planning and Zoning Commission, on Wednesday, Aug. 29. Residents, business owners, contractors, city officials and former Camden County Presiding Commissioner Kris Franken submitted public comments on the revisions.
County officials attending the hearing were Camden County Planning and Zoning Commissioners, P&Z Administrator Tanna Wirtz and P&Z Legal Advisor/Husch Blackwell Associate Liz LaFoe.
Wirtz began the meeting with a Power Point presentation with the outline of ULUC Articles. Click to see the overview of the changes presented at the meeting. After the outline was presented, the public hearing was opened for public comment.
Why have Zoning?
Ike Skelton lives in the county and is presently not subject to P&Z authority. He suggested the county should do away with planning and zoning altogether, saying there was a petition already circulating that calls for a vote of the people, because, he said, "P&Z can be voted out, in the same way it was voted in."
Health, Safety, Morals and/or General Welfare
The county wrote a draft purpose statement for the ULUC. The draft states that the purpose of the ULUC is to
promote and protect public health, safety, morals, and/or general welfare, through the regulation of the use of land and the location, use, size, height, and shape of buildings and structures erected thereon, each having due regard to: encouraging the most appropriate use of land, preventing the overcrowding of land, conserving the value of land and structures, lessening the congestion of traffic on the roads, avoiding the congestion of population, providing for adequate light and air, securing safety from fire, flood, and other dangers, facilitating adequate provision of infrastructure and public facilities, giving reasonable consideration to the existing character and peculiar suitability for certain uses in particular districts, giving effect to the policies and proposals of the Master Plan, as approved by the Planning Commission.
Biggest Citizen Concern - Zero Setbacks
The revision garnering the most comments at the hearing was the proposal to take Lakefront residential setbacks from the current 25 ft. to zero ft, with a Department of Natural Resources (DNR) approved centralized sewer system, except in manufactured mobile home parks.
There were multiple comments submitted against the zero-setback revision, due to the potential for new construction built next to the water’s edge that could obstruct the lake views of already established properties. Property owners pointed out they paid a premium price for those lake views when purchasing their lakefront real estate.
When Wirtz asked for a show of hands of who was for and against a "zero setback" proposal, the vast majority in the room raised their hands in opposition.
One citizen commented that if a developer can’t make the 25 ft setback they could request a variance or a planned unit development.
Builder Brent Calvert questioned why the zero setback would only be for state-approved central sewer systems, when in some cases, there could be enough property to build a gravity flow tank and lateral field behind the property, or on a second-tier lot. Camden County Wastewater Department Supervisor Jennifer Eblen said they had discussed the same option.
Franken commented that DNR was not fair in the way they treated people in the permitting process, as they would often permit one and not the other, with the same criteria. “That could mean a lawsuit against the county,” Franken said. “It’s a huge issue that needs to be addressed.”
One citizen contended that after paying high taxes on lakefront properties they also have to contend with layer upon layer of one type of bureaucracy or another that restrict private citizens on what they can and cannot do on their own private property. He added that FEMA and Ameren and county road easements each take a slice of their property already and county ULUC and P&Z take still more and are simply another layer of control. They added that P&Z should take into account that almost every neighborhood already has a homeowners association with established setbacks and other property guidelines.
Franken spoke on the conundrum of the zero setback in light of the varying Ameren project boundary lines. Due to methods and elevations, some are anywhere from 680, 662 and even out to the center of the lake. “When Ameren came through looking for easements for the right to flood and create the Bagnell Dam, some property owners would not sell, so they were given a flood easement in lieu of a lake easement,” Franken said. "This means they own out to the center of the lake.” A new setback was also developed to maintain a 3 ft greenspace off the project boundary to protect the public recreational aspect of the lake. “If you give some a zero setback, you will put them on the Ameren project boundary line and it will encroach on green space and create another huge issue.” He added that he was all for revising the ULUC, but he warned that it needed to be done responsibly.
How To Enforce?
Wirtz presented proposed enforcement procedures in Section 705. The provision stated that prior to pursing a criminal action, based on a violation of the ULUC, a certified letter would be sent to the property owner addressing the violation. The letter would include a specific time allowed for compliance.
After the letter addressing a violation was sent to the property owner, and the time allowed for compliance had expired, a “Letter of Non-Compliance” may be filed with the Recorder of Deeds. Upon satisfaction of the violation, a “Letter of Compliance” release will be filed. One citizen commented that this process could make it hard to obtain a permit if a title had a former non-compliance issue placed on it by P&Z, due to a builder or contractor.
Tiny Houses Added
Additional items to consider in the revision fall under Section 900 include; E-3 No. 3, which proposes that one manufactured home or tiny house be allowed per lot. Also, the proposed creation of an E-4 Tiny House Subdivision, with the same guidelines as a mobile home subdivision is proposed to be implemented.
Article 1300 discusses proposed provisions for amendments to the text of the ULUC or to the Zoning Map, to be made in accordance with the provision of the ULUC and in compliance with RSMo 64.645. One citizen commented, “The county could face a lawsuit for removing the portion of the ULUC that connects the zoning code to the county master plan, due to state statute that zoning must be tied to a master plan, so that decisions do not become arbitrary.”
What Exactly Has Been Changed?
Franken commented that he wished the changes were made more clear on the county website. “Is there a way to see what was changed from the old to the new?” Franken questioned. Husch Blackwell Associate Attorney Liz LaFoe responded that they experienced multiple issues due to a formatting glitch in the tracking program. “We had originally planned to show and track all of the changes,” LaFoe said. “But they are not readable, while there are multiple layers of revision, there is no one document that captures the changes in entirety…because we are human. The surest way is to compare it with the old code.” The massive old ULUC document and the proposed revised ULUC document can both be viewed online. Click to view.
Camden County business owner Teresa Townsend admitted that she was at first excited about the rewrite, but she felt it fell short. “I see no compilation of public input in these changes,” Townsend said. “I see expanded authority and it is more punitive and not what the taxpayers intended. We have waited three years and paid $60,000 and we have received something substandard.”
Other citizens comments (paraphrased):
- I want to see all new guidelines protect the taxpayers, residents and environment and beauty of the lake and be approved by voters who pay taxes and who live in this area.
- Osage Beach measures from the wall and they allow a 2 ft. overhang, it makes it easier for the contractor
- Will the changes to the code be retroactive on already established properties?
- There need to be provisions made to build a garage without having to build an expensive and unnecessary sewer system.
- Moving houses closer to the lake would be good because then wastewater systems are built on the other side of the house, farther away from the lake.
- It is fantastic that I live in the county, since I can build something the way I want because there are no regulations, permits or permissions needed.
- The county should keep the 25ft setback for flood control, otherwise we will be forced to have flood insurance.
- I have heard they want to push P&Z out into the county, and I am against it.
- If setbacks are changed to zero, there should be a requirement to have the permission of property owners that will be affected by the construction.
- A 15-ft setback would be best for the environment and you should consider that the curve on lakefront properties increases lake views.
- Conditional Use Permits should be explored as an answer to setbacks and accessory lot issues.
“We will go and look at what has been said,” Wirtz ended. “Send us emails and we will be sure the board sees them, and they will take into consideration all your comments for the revision.” Wirtz said there will be more public hearings on the ULUC revisions. She did not announce the date of the next hearing.