Washington County zoning regulations causing controversy

Neighbors worried about being unable to operate small businesses from their home, land
Washington County small businesses could be in jeopardy if proposed zoning changes are passed.
Published: Jan. 18, 2023 at 10:23 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Potter-sculptor Pam Daly has become a hands-on money maker.

“I’m not big on selling stuff,” Daly said. “I’m much better on just making stuff.”

But don’t sell her art short.

“Well, these are pretty expensive. These would be up in the thousands.”

Dan, Pam’s husband, read proposed changes to county regulations and says the future is muddy for Pam’s pottery and sculpture business.

“No outdoor storage of materials or equipment used in a home occupation shall be permitted,” Dan said.

Pam uses a separate kiln building, and for 23 years, her sculpture studio has been in a detached garage.

“It says you can’t have a business unless it’s in your living room, in your house, in your kitchen, your principal structure,” Dan said.

Down the road, Don and Robin Jeffery own just under 20 acres, where they live and operate several small businesses.

“There are over 500 small businesses that are in rural Washington County,” Don said.

Many would be restricted or eliminated if proposed rules don’t allow a work operation on their land that’s outside the house.

“We wouldn’t be able to operate our excavation company off of our land,” Robin said. “We wouldn’t be able to raise our grass-fed cattle. We wouldn’t be able to raise our own chickens.”

The proposals have drawn crowded and contentious meetings, with another one tomorrow night.

“Any revenue we earn, the ability would be taken away,” Robin said.

Instead of an interview, the Washington County planning administrator told 6 News in an email that the discussion will include the expansion of regulations to allow the use of accessory buildings for home occupations.

Dan and Pam say they want a smoother, more understandable transition to any new regulations.

But it’s clear to home-based business owners that regulation changes are for an urban reserve they say would permit smaller acreages from ten acres down to two.

“And the reason clearly is for subdivisions and we keep saying put the subdivisions around town,” Pam said.

“There seems to be a concern more about the people who want to come up here, or might move up here,” Robin said.

Pam and her neighbors say regulations should be molded to protect the rural landscape and an ability to make a living off their land.

The Washington County planning administrator said that home occupation regulations have not changed, but proposed revisions to the comprehensive plan will be discussed at an open meeting Thursday night at the Blair Library.