The Gering City Council Monday considered the first update to the city’s zoning code ordinance in more than 30 years.
Following approval last year of a new comprehensive plan, City Engineer Annie Folck said the new map and zoning categories would help simplify things and make it easier for businesses to know what is and is not allowed in any part of the community.
Folck said the current zoning codes date back to 1984 and needed to be modernized, starting with the basics such as new definitions. “When your current zoning code addresses dry goods stores, but it doesn’t address AirBnB and tiny houses and things like that, those are a lot of the things we wanted to address and make sure are covered,” said Folck. “Our definitions are now much more complete, and which doesn’t sound like much but when it comes to actually applying the code is very key. We also have reduced the number of zoning districts from 13 to ten.”
The new zoning regulations would also give staff some flexibility in approving applications where projects have a 10% or less variance in certain building standards, and Folck said the streamlined ordinance would also make enforcement easier.
Folck also said she would be recommending to the Council that the Planning Commission be given the sole authority to approve conditional use permits in the future, saying that panel has done an excellent job of vetting such requests, and typically gets into more detail on those applications than the city council. She says removing the additional layer of governmental approvals would be another positive addition to make the city more attractive for business development.
Following a public hearing on the new ordinance, the council gave first reading approval on a 7-0 vote. Folck recommended at least one more reading of the ordinance to give the public time to digest the changes and make recommendations before the document is finalized.