Rural Farmette dead; alternative in works

Rural Farmette dead; alternative in works

By Shellie Berg

By Shellie Berg

Staff Reporter

At the Winnebago County Farm Bureau meeting Jan. 9, Zoning Committee Chairman Rick Pollack said he will recommend that the county board vote down the controversial Rural Farmette (RF) zoning proposal and explore an alternative.

The RF change from AG-1 would have paved the way for five-acre tracts to be scattered on unsuitable farmland. The proposal also would have allowed eight houses per 40 acres versus one house per 40 acres.

Bureau manager Roger Christian noted the alternative, currently called AG-2, would be similar and use up less acreage. People could also raise different livestock instead of just horses.

The Zoning Committee told the bureau to explore an alternative last fall, because former committee Chairwoman Sue McDonald said the farmette proposal would go through no matter what, Christian stated. Pollack said he couldn’t speak on McDonald’s behalf, but said she “gets things done.”

“I think, really, the county for the last several years has been trying to come up with a plan,” Pollack stated. “A high-level priority would be to preserve farmland and have orderly growth. That was the whole intent of RF. But it’s been amended so many times in three years, it’s not what it was intended to do in the beginning.”

Yet, the proposal failed because Pollack said the county received negative comments about the change.

Christian said he likes the alternative better than RF. “It’s better than what we had,” Christian said. “At least we’re not objecting until we look at an alternative plan. We do want to keep the present AG and AG-1. That’s what the farmette proposal was—to eliminate AG-1.”

The bureau’s board still must look at the alternative and vote, but Christian doesn’t know when there will be a meeting. Later this month, area townships will hold a meeting to provide input. The Zoning Committee will meet Feb. 7 to discuss the new plan.

However, if the townships reject the proposal, “then we go back to step one again,” Christian noted.

Area townships, as well as the farm bureau, filed legal objections to the RF proposal. “It was a residential zoning district somewhat disguised as an agricultural zoning [that the county] was going to put into rural areas without a specific plan,” Christian stated, adding it was “spot zoning.”

Their opposition is that the zoning wouldn’t preserve prime farmland; provide medical and fire necessities; provide orderly growth; encourage growth of agricultural business in rural areas; maintain the overall make up of rural parts; control growth; and be cost-efficient for townships that have to maintain roads.

Pollack disagrees. “I think they were afraid that it was going to open up development in areas that they didn’t want to see developed. I think there’s a concern we’re favoring developers. I think, as a county board. we’re trying to achieve balance. If we can do that with AG-2, then there something to consider.”

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