Sparks fly at Washington County Planning Commission meeting

Tempers ran high, more questions than answers at public meeting
Washington County residents met at the Blair Library Thursday night to debate proposed changes to zoning regulations they say could jeopardize many small busine
Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 10:14 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Pam Daly was the first public speaker at Thursday’s joint meeting of Washington County supervisors and the planning commission -- and she delivered a haymaker in her sharp rebuke of a proposed new comprehensive strategy for the county.

“I have many things I could say, but I would just say this. A solution to the whole thing is...start over,” Daly said, met with applause.

“Everybody up here recognizes the process broke down,” said District 1 supervisor Steve Dethlefs. “And we recognize that and we’re here to try to make it right now.”

The Blair Library was overflowing -- a conservative estimate of 250 filled the room and halls, looking for answers to a draft most are seeing for the first time, already approved by the planning commission.

The 166-page document provided targets for a litany of complaints, ranging from constraints on small farmers and home-based businesses to residential zoning and limits on how current residents can use their property in the future.

“Where’s the vision for the people sitting at these tables?” asked resident Lance Claussen. “You know deep down what Washington County should be and what these hills should be. It could be a very special place if we allow it to be.”

A new comprehensive plan is needed by 2025, will be in place for 20 years, and has been in the works for over seven. Chris Shewchuck is the third planning and zoning administrator to oversee the process in that time.

“We will make changes...prior to adoption of the plans,” Shewchuck said.

“I do not trust you or your process right now as it currently stands,” said resident Charles Gaylord.

The bottom line is whether it’s back to square one or just revisions, it’s clear this community had their voices heard tonight.

Read the draft proposal in full.