Subdivision regulations move forward toward possible countywide vote

Thursday, November 18, 2010

With peripheral zoning at a governmental standstill, a separate proposal that would call for regulating the construction of new subdivisions in Cape Girardeau County is just gaining traction.

But the committee members who have worked for more than a year at drafting the regulations want residents to understand one key fact: They are not asking for countywide planning and zoning.

"What we're asking for is county planning; there's a big difference," said Mary Miller, chairwoman of the Cape Girardeau-Jackson Joint Subdivision Advisory Committee. "Planning is not the same thing as zoning."

That means, unlike peripheral zoning, subdivision regulations would be directed solely at developers of new county residential subdivisions, who would have to follow rules when they were building homes on more than three lots. Residents in existing subdivisions would not be affected by the new plan, Miller said.

The committee got the support of the Cape Girardeau City Council at its meeting Monday and expects the Jackson Board of Aldermen to give its stamp of approval at its Dec. 6 meeting. After that, the committee will take the proposal to the Cape Girardeau County Commission in January, after Clint Tracy takes office as presiding commissioner.

If the commission approves the plan, voters will be asked to authorize the creation of a county planning commission, which would then enforce minimum standards for the construction of streets, sewers, water mains and other infrastructure involved in new subdivision construction.

The proposed regulations do not address lot sizes, building setbacks or other limitations that are typically considered zoning issues.

The new county planning commission, appointed by the county commission, would then be required to hold a public hearing regarding the proposed regulations before considering them for adoption. These volunteer planning commissioners would be county residents appointed by the county commission.

Cape Girardeau assistant city manager Ken Eftink, who has attended many of the committee meetings, said he believes that the regulations would benefit homeowners.

"That way people who move into those subdivisions know what they're getting," Eftink said. "They won't have any surprises five years down the road when the streets start falling apart, the septic systems fail. That creates a huge cost that is paid by the homeowner."

Eftink agreed that it is important that residents understand that the regulations would not dictate what people can do on their land.

"We're not regulating the use of their property," Eftink said. "That seems to be one of the primary concerns of peripheral zoning. Subdivision regulations only come into play if somebody's creating a subdivision."

The committee from the start has said it is not interested in county zoning, Eftink said, only subdivision regulations. The recent peripheral zoning debate may have added to the confusion, he said.

"We are concerned that people will get the peripheral zoning issue mixed up with subdivision regulations," he said. He said they are "two totally different issues to our planning commissions but confusing for others who don't deal with such regulations."


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