STANFORD — Lincoln Fiscal Court has approved changes to its planning and zoning ordinance intended to make county regulations more business-friendly.
Planning and Zoning attorney Jeff Ralston told magistrates Tuesday that relaxing the requirements for paving parking lots and other spaces used by vehicles would lower costs for new businesses and simplify enforcement for the county.
"We have worked with the current ordinance for several years. We have found that it doesn't suit our situation in many instances," Ralston said. "What we've done is come back and try to make it better for both the individual that's putting in a business and for the Planning and Zoning Commission."
Under the previous zoning regulation, essentially all areas used by vehicles were required to be paved with blacktop or concrete, Ralston said. The modified regulation requires pavement along the edge of county and city roads and defines how far back from the road the pavement has to continue.
Property that is strictly residential or agricultural is exempted from even this requirement, Ralston said. New businesses along state and federal roads will have to follow whatever state and federal requirements there are, but county planning and zoning pavement rules will no longer apply there, he said.
Existing businesses will be grandfathered in, just as they were under the previous paving regulations.
"To be completely honest with you, the economy is not doing the best in the world and there's a lot of new businesses that cannot afford to pave … in order to open up their business," Ralston said.
Wherever pavement is no longer required, white stone gravel will be required instead. Ralston said the planning and zoning regulations will still prevent bare lots that can get muddy in rain and cause large amounts of dust in heat.
Ralston said agricultural businesses often don't benefit from paving their parking lots, and in the case of the stockyards specifically, paving that business' large parking lot would have created an environmental issue with unwanted run-off.
Because of the issues with requiring agricultural businesses to pave, planning and zoning had been authorizing variations and granting extensions to allow businesses more time to meet the requirements. Under the new regulations, that won't have to happen anymore, Ralston said.
Magistrates Johnnie Padgett, David Faulkner and Joe Stanley supported the change presented by Ralston. Faulkner said he thinks the new regulations will allow for less policing by the county and provide a potential economic development boost.
"It's much less restrictive," he said. "This is a good thing."
Judge-Executive Jim Adams said he thinks white rock can work better than pavement in many situations.
"This is another example of how planning and zoning evolves to suit our county," he said.
Fiscal Court approved changing several office assistant positions around that will allow one position to be moved to the road department.
Adams said his current assistant, Kim Taylor, will be moving to the road department, freeing up the road department director and city engineer positions from responsibilities like answering the phone.
The change was made possible after Planning and Zoning relocated into the old courthouse, the same building where the judge-executive, tax administrator and building inspector offices are located.
Office assistants for the four offices will now be shared to an extent, with each assistant having a primary office but also the ability to help out in the other offices.
Taylor will be receiving $12.64 per hour — the base pay for a truck operator in the road department — which is $1.64 more than she was earning as Adams' assistant, Adams said. The other assistants will remain at their current pay levels.
Adams said the county plans to sell Planning and Zoning's old building next to the sheriff's office.
In other business, the fiscal court:
• approved the second reading of its $8.14 million budget for fiscal year 2013;
• accepted a $125,000 federal stimulus grant Adams said would be used to improve windows and doors on the old courthouse; and
• tabled approval of the Lincoln County Fire District budget for fiscal year 2013 because the budget included $21,000 from the county that Adams said the county no longer intends on providing.