by LuAnn Schindler
A resolution opposing perpetual land and water conservation easements will be included in Holt County zoning documents. Planning and zoning commission members accepted the resolution from Holt County Supervisors, as is, on a 4-2 vote, during a Feb. 27 public hearing.
A handful of Holt County residents asked questions about Resolution 2021-32, which would "oppose the designation of lands in Holt County as wilderness, wilderness study areas, wildlife preserves, open space or other conservation easements that are perpetual in nature, thereby restricting public access to such lands and preventing the development and productive use of resources on or within such lands."
According to planning and zoning interim director Gene Kelly, the current tax rate would be in effect on land in a perpetual easement. That would vary, year by year. It goes by land sales and soil type. It would be adjusted every year, just like everybody else," Kelly said. Federal wetland easements use a different formula, according to Kelly. Commission member Rod Heiss asked if land classifications can be set for land entered in an easement. "I'm trying to think how we can protect that, that it won't dump into a different classification," Heiss said. According to commission member Grace Coleman, specifications are written into the easement. "It's written in the (easement) document and stays with it until God dies," she said. Diana Steskal, of Stuart, asked if a conservation easement would affect controlled shooting areas and other wildlife habitats. "Instead of getting a perpetual easement, if you got a 99.9 (-year easement), then you'd be OK with that?" She asked. Federal wetland regulations differ, according to Kelly. "Every easement can be tweaked for a situation," Kelly said. It comes down to landowner property rights, according to Steskal. Commission member Marv Fritz said he's opposed to additional government oversight. "I am adamantly opposed to any of this stuff. We do not need more regulations to tell us ... It's a person's individual land and I just don't think you can tell them what they can do with their land," he said. Commission member Grace Coleman said the concern is use of the world "perpetual." "They can be done for 30 years or 50 years," she said. Fritz interjected, "But if they want to do a perpetual, they have just as much right to do one for 20 years or 30 or 50. It makes no difference. It's their land. It's not our land to tell them what to do." Heiss said he understands the supervisors' concerns. "They have to answer to the almighty tax dollar," he said. It could result in fewer services.
In regular session, Fritz made a motion to not accept the resolution into zoning regulations. Heiss seconded the motion, which failed, 2-4.
Coleman's motion to accept the resolution, as is, and include it in zoning documents passed, 4-2. Fritz and Heiss voted no.
The matter will advance to Holt County Supervisors. A public hearing, concerning addition of the resolution opposing perpetual land and water conservation easements to Holt County Planning and Zoning regulations and the Holt County Comprehensive Plan is scheduled for 1:15 p.m., March 31, at the Holt County Courthouse.
Welcome to the discussion.