File photo: One of the many junkyards in unincorporated Dade. The county commission will consider a new draft of Dade's first zoning ordinance this afternoon.
The newsworthiest item on last Thursday's Dade County Commission meeting was: "Proposed ordinance to permit heavy industry and land use--Committee Report." This referred to Dade's first stab at zoning in the unincorporated county.
As it turned out, nothing newsworthy came of it at the Jan. 2 meeting. The commissioners were handed the freshly-minted ordinance draft, the citizens who had produced it at several months' worth of ad hoc committee sessions were duly thanked, but not heard from, and a workshop was scheduled for the commissioners to discuss it, after which the public will be given a chance to weigh in at a public hearing later in the month.
The commissioners' special work session on that ordinance is at 5 p.m. today, Tuesday, Jan. 7, inside the commission's office in the Administrative Building. The public hearing is at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 30, in the Administrative Building's large meeting room.
(Photo: Katie Bien speaks at a Sept. 30 hearing on the first proposed county zoning ordinance.)
An earlier draft of the ordinance, crafted unilaterally and in haste by the county commission and its attorney, in reaction to public appeals for protection from the perceived incursion of a chicken processing plant, had struck many citizens--to judge by their reactions at a Sept. 30 public hearing--as overbroad, imprecise and potentially harmful to area agriculture. This go-round, the ordinance specifically protects agriculture and small farm-related businesses from regulation.
The ordinance exempts from its rules "agricultural farming operations as defined in the following paragraph," which paragraph lists farms that produce vegetables, fruits, trees, chicken, pigs, et cetera, with the stipulation: "Agricultural farming operations specifically do not include slaughterhouses or processing of poultry, beef, pork or other livestock for human or animal consumption."
The ordinance also excludes from its own coverage "industrial facilities not reasonably required to need or be serviced by more than two box trucks or tractor-trailers exceeding 28 feet per week"; animal dressing facilities provided that the animals are killed off-site, or that are killed on site no more than one day a week"; and, more generally, "uses which are expressly exempt from local land use regulation by state or federal law."
Other commercial concerns would be required to seek special use permits from the county in order to develop or substantially expand industrial use of land. These include mining, manufacturing, scrap materials, iron or steel storage or recovery, recycled materials processing, utilities, radioactive waste storage, hazardous waste storage, solid waste storage, "uses reasonably expected to emit foul or noxious odors"--except, presumably, the livestock operations specifically exempted as described above--and any use that requires federal or state permits for air quality or emissions, or the discharge of wastewater.
The last ordinance draft exempted industries that inhabit less than five acres of land. The new version chisels that down to one acre.
The proposed ordinance also decreases the application fee for a permit from $500 to $100 and sets up a "Special Use Permit Board" of five citizens to be appointed by the county commission, which will also dictate which is to be chairperson. Board members would serve four-year terms.
This board would be responsible for processing permits and ensuring that applicants comply with Dade ordinances. Public hearings would be held before the board made a final decision on the application, and within 90 days of the app being filed.
The ordinance sets rules for allowing permit seekers to state their case and for opponents to have their chance to present objections. It also lists criteria for the board's decision, including the proposed enterprise's impact on existing land uses or the development of nearby properties, its effect on the "natural environment" and whether it could cause "excessive or burdensome use of existing streets, transportation facilities, utilities, or schools." It also allows board members to ask "what benefits and burdens will the proposed use have on the Dade County and regional economy?"
The board must act within 60 days of the public hearing on the application, but tabling the app is one permitted action. If the board denies the application, it must state the reasons why and advise the applicant of potential remedial actions.
The ordinance provides for an appeals process to the Dade County Commission, which would be able to reverse the board's decision or send it back to the board for further investigation.
The ordinance will become effective when and if the county commission approves it, and the temporary ban on permits would at that point be considered repealed.
The commission meeting this afternoon is open to the public, and again, the public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Jan. 30.