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Discussing it

From left, Mark Greenlee, land use administrator; Larry Andreesen, Assessor; Kate Robertson, BDG executive director.

VINTON – Benton County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday morning to review the county’s land use ordinance for ways to dispel a reputation that the county is closed to business.

The action came during discussion on a proposed county-wide ban of commercial windmills.

Supervisor Tracy Seeman introduced a resolution last week calling for the ban, saying during Tuesday’s meeting he did so because of comments from voters during his election campaign. He withdrew the proposed ban at the conclusion of the meeting.

Kate Robertson, Benton Development Group (BDG) executive director, and Marlyn Jorgensen, a BDG board member, raised objections about the proposal, saying it would send the wrong message about the county’s desire for economic development.

Just a few years ago, Jorgensen said the county had a reputation among state officials of not wanting business growth. That attitude developed after the current land use ordinance was enacted in the 1980s.

That ordinance prohibits the use of “quality agricultural land” for non-agricultural purposes. A rating system exists where if a land is ranked at 70 or above, it was high quality and could not be converted for commercial use, according to Greenlee, county land use administrator.

Many areas along Highway 30 in eastern Benton County have attracted interest in commercial development as work continues to complete the four-lane project in a couple of years, said Robertson. Much of that land is rated above the 70 percent level.

Jorgensen said it is time to review the land use ordinance and to abandon the windmill ban before the county again earns a reputation of being closed for business. This could cause the county to lose much needed growth and additional tax revenue, said Jorgensen.

When Seeman began the discussion of the windmill band, it was noted the expansion of windmills in Benton County could mean millions of dollars in tax revenues.

With a $2.3 million Benton County budget deficit for the next fiscal year Primmer said the county should not be restricted. They needed to find additional sources of revenue or budget cuts could be required.

The land use ordinance restrictions have arisen before and the Benton County Planning Commission met with the supervisors. The only planning in the county is the land use ordinance.

Planning Commission members said agricultural land was the most valuable thing in the county. If high quality ag land was used for commercial purpose, it would never again be used for agriculture.

Supervisors agreed to begin discussions on possibly altering the land use ordinance.