Neighbor discord leads to lengthy county rezone hearing

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SHERIDAN — A family feud-fueled zoning request dominated Tuesday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting, lasting roughly 55 minutes and resulting in an uncommon 3-2 vote by the board, which often votes unanimously.

A local family, the Roadifers, successfully petitioned the board to rezone a 10-acre portion of a 303-acre parcel of land approximately 10 miles southwest of Sheridan from agricultural to rural residential.

The action, though, came with plenty of back and forth among the commissioners and attorneys representing the Roadifers and their discontented neighbors.

The rezone was the first step in managing the Roadifer family trust. The family plans to split off 10 acres, on which one of the Roadifers currently has a home, so that person can continue living there. The remaining 293 acres will go on the market.

David Smith, the Roadifers’ attorney, urged commissioners to approve the request, saying that under the new zoning, the land would be used the same way it is used currently. He said the Roadifers had no plans to develop the land and that several other lots in the area were already zoned rural residential.

One 0.75-mile stretch of road near the Roadifer property, Smith noted, contains 17 houses, according to the Roadifers’ observations.

“So this isn’t open prairie,” Smith said. “It’s rural residential already.”

But neighbors in the area didn’t like the idea and sought to persuade the commissioners to deny the rezone.

Brendon Kerns, an attorney representing the neighbors, said the rezone would lead to additional subdivision and more homes and traffic in the area, adding wear and tear to a road the neighbors are responsible for maintaining.

Kerns said the rezone request also tied into the deeper issue of an ongoing dispute between his clients and the Roadifer family.

“They don’t get along,” Kerns said. “It is a very, very nasty relationship. Mailboxes have been destroyed, roads have been rerouted, fences have been cut and not put back.”

Kerns acknowledged the feud was not the commissioners’ problem to deal with, but said it impacted the wellbeing of the neighborhood and granting the rezone would only make the situation worse.

After lengthy discussion, Commissioners Steve Maier, Tom Ringley and Bob Rolston voted to approve the rezone. Terry Cram and Mike Nickel voted against it.

“We’re crossing a line that shouldn’t be crossed here,” Cram said before the vote. Cram said that in deciding zoning requests, the commissioners should adhere to the long-term zoning plan the county had spent considerable time writing.

“Lines have to be made, somewhere,” he said. “And lines were made. This is not a residential lot.”

Nickel said that the neighbors’ complaints had merit in his eyes.

“Property owners that invested a lot of money to live there carry some weight on my end,” he said, adding that subdivisions were “popping up” frequently in the area and keeping the parcel zoned agricultural would help deter that.

Maier said before casting his vote that he had planned to adhere strictly to the zoning plan Cram was so intent on abiding, but soon realized that denying the request might lead the Roadifers to subdivide their land into 80-acre parcels, which is allowed under the agricultural zone.

“There’d certainly be other options that would be looked at, that might not be as good as maintaining the [293] acres in one agricultural piece,” he said. “And that’s — that would be my goal in the long term — as much agricultural as possible.”

The Sheridan County Public Works Department recommended denial of the rezone, citing the 2008 Sheridan County Comprehensive Plan, which calls for continued agricultural use of the area. The Sheridan County Planning and Zoning Commission voted 2-2 on the request at an earlier meeting.

*This story was updated at 4:00 p.m. Wednesday to correct a reporting error regarding the number of acres that were rezoned. Ten acres were rezoned. The Sheridan Press regrets the error.

By |July 20th, 2016|

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