SHERIDAN — By a vote of four to one, Sheridan County Commissioners rejected proposed amendments to zoning regulations regarding riparian buffer zones at their regular meeting Tuesday. The regulations would have established a 50-foot buffer zone around streams and wetlands in Sheridan County in order to prevent soil erosion, protect fish and wildlife habitat and improve water quality.
More than 40 people filled the commissioners’ boardroom Tuesday, with 17 speaking against and three speaking for the proposed riparian regulations. Several noted after the meeting that they were in support of the regulations but chose not to speak.
People in attendance were primarily from Story, Dayton and Ranchester. Incorporated towns and agricultural lands would have been exempt from the regulations.
Primary concerns regarding the riparian regulations centered on private property rights, the lack of restrictions on agricultural land and the limited scope of regulations that would impact 1.3 percent of the county’s population.
“I agree that we have placed a major burden on a small percent of property owners,” Commissioner Tom Ringley said about his vote against the zoning amendment.
Commissioners Ringley, Mike Nickel, Steve Maier and Bob Rolston voted against the proposed regulations.
“I know people are particularly concerned about regulation, and government and that sort of thing, and I agree,” Board Chairman Steve Maier said. “I think the commissioners are very cautious about imposing any kind of new regulation. Most people who are land owners have real concerns, as I would, about being regulated in terms of what they can do along that 50-foot buffer.”
Commissioner Terry Cram voted for the proposed riparian regulations because he said he felt they were at least a piece to the puzzle of how to protect water quality and wildlife habitat in Sheridan County. He said the proposed regulations incorporated extensive public input and weren’t excessively intrusive.
“I voted for it because there was a clear mandate from the public back when we did the (comprehensive) plan that they wanted us to further protect our riparian areas,” Cram said. “It was clear to me that it was enumerated in the plan to do this. We decided early on that whatever people said they wanted in the plan, we were going to do, and now we’ve let, literally, a small group of very vocal people change our minds, in my opinion.”
All commissioners agreed that water quality was important and worth protecting, expressing a desire to look at alternative ways to do without.