Baker County Commissioners on Wednesday, April 21 approved the first reading of an ordinance amending the county’s zoning ordinance.

Comission Chairman Bill Harvey abstained from voting, saying he disagreed with a changed proposed by the county road department.

Commissioners Mark Bennett and Bruce Nichols voted for the first reading.

The change the road department proposed calls for people with residential developments with three or more lots that connect to a paved county road have the access road paved for at least 55 feet from the intersection. The purpose is to prevent gravel from eroding the paved county road.

Harvey said he’s concerned the change would affect all residents who have a gravel road or driveway connecting to a paved county road.

“You cannot require everybody who accesses that road to pave 55 feet into the property,” Harvey said.

But Holly Kerns, the county’s planning director, said the proposed change would apply only to new developments with three or more lots.

Harvey also expressed concerns about other proposed changes, including one requiring people developing a property to verify that all applicable laws are current when they apply for permits.

“This is outside the realm of understanding for most applicants,” Harvey said. “(They) wouldn’t even know where to go look. How are they supposed to be able to verify laws in regards to the application?”

Kerns said the purpose of the change is not to ensure that applicants know the status of laws, but that they understand what the criteria are for the proposed development.

“The applicant owner has some accountability and responsibility, not that they have to go out and do a whole legal research, but they do have to understand that it changes and it isn’t the county’s fault,” Bennett said.

Harvey also asked about a requirement for “impact studies” for developments.

“Why would they need an impact study?” he said.

Kerns said such studies would be needed only for very large developments.

“If there is a potential for a significant impact, we have the ability to ask the applicant to show us the data so we can understand what that impact is and then the planning commission can make appropriate decisions about whether or not the applicant needs to bear some responsibility for mitigating that impact, whatever that is,” Kerns said.

Harvey asked that that section of the ordinance be changed to read “if necessary.”

“As an applicant I’m assuming that I’m going to have to do an impact study because it says necessary,” Harvey said.

Harvey, who is a building contractor, said he was reviewing the proposed zoning changes from the perspective of a potential applicant.

“I’m addressing these issues because from an applicant’s position, there are requirements in there that may be expensive (and that) to me that are unnecessary,” he said.

Commissioners will have another public hearing, and potentially formally approve the zoning changes, on May 5.

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