Planning and zoning should not be just a function to collect fees, but should protect the residents and taxpayers of Lake of the Ozarks.
Planning and zoning should not be just a function to collect fees, but should protect the residents and taxpayers of Lake of the Ozarks. So commented Greenview area resident Bev Trokey during a public hearing on a proposed new land use code for the Camden County Lake Area Planning and Zoning District.
Trokey was of one several residents in attendance at the August 29, 2018 public hearing who appeared to be there mainly opposing one of the most significant proposals of the new code — zero lakeside setbacks for all residential zonings, except manufactured home parks, with a state-approved centralized sewer.
As another resident, Vince Reefer, put it, in a place like Lake of the Ozarks, views are valuable and elimination of lakeside setbacks puts the lake views of existing residences more at risk of being cut off. With the current residential setbacks in place for the last 14 years, the line of sight has been established. He said that there were instances in which the current setback of 25 feet could be reduced or eliminated without infringing others’ views — but that these cases were unique and would be more appropriately handled through individual variance requests.
“To change the entire code for a few properties, I think that’s a bad deal,” he commented. Reefer also noted that the change might also lead to some existing residences, not just new construction, putting on lakeside additions, causing problems for views in established neighborhoods.
Former Camden County presiding commissioner Kris Franken attended the meeting, questioning the impact of zero setbacks on Ameren Missouri’s varied project boundary line for Lake of the Ozarks. A part of county government when Ameren relicensed its hydroelectric facility — Bagnell Dam — with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Franken advised planning commissioners that the new federal operating license required a three-foot setback from the project boundary to allow for greater green space.
The project boundary is a line around the lake delineating the area where Ameren received the right to flood with the creation of Bagnell Dam, creating Lake of the Ozarks out of the Osage River. The boundary varies widely though due to different methods and different elevations used to obtain land and flood rights in the late 1920s and early ‘30s when the dam was being planned and built. The 2012 relicensing saw major problems due to thousands of structures — from gazebos to entire lake homes — encroaching and sometimes being completely over the project boundary line. The project boundary line was finally redrawn to accommodate most of the structures, but the three-foot setback was developed to maintain the public recreational aspect of the lake as required by the Federal Power Act, enacted in 1920.
Franken also advised that the code was is set up to respect the setbacks of home and property owners associations, allowing stricter setbacks as subdivision covenants provide.
Marshall Gaddy spoke in favor of keeping the 25-foot setback, concerned about flood control.
Developer Dan Spanburg favored the reduction of lakeside setbacks, but not total elimination. He suggested a 15-foot setback, explaining that lakefront is not a flat line — coves curve — so some reduction of views could occur even with existing setbacks. He also commented that moving houses closer to the lake would be a good thing environmentally because, with the houses coming down on the lot, it would push wastewater systems up away from the lake. A 15-foot setback is needed though to provide room for the wastewater collection system. Builder and developer Brent Calvert questioned why centralized sewer was the only caveat to zero setbacks lakeside, as certain on-site systems are designed to pump uphill.
Camdenton City Administrator Jeff Hancock advised the planning commission explore conditional use permits (CUPs) in certain situations like lakeside setbacks or accessory lots (another issue raised) as a way to handle the cases more on an individual basis. Variances, the long-time city administrator said, were only supposed to be for hardship scenarios. He added that throwing setbacks back on homeowner associations could be problematic due to their own enforcement challenges.
At one point, P&Z Administrator Tanna Wirtz asked the hearing audience — around 40 or so — how many people were for or against zero residential lakeside setbacks. Nearly everyone in attendance raised their hand against elimination of this setback.
Other items of note
•Hancock attended questioned the legal ramifications of the removal of a paragraph that tied the zoning code to the county’s master plan. By state law, zoning has to be based in a master plan so that decisions do not become arbitrary and capricious.
•Residents in the Climax Springs area questioned regulations for accessory lots as they wanted to subdivide off-lake land for garages to serve older lakefront homes in the vicinity built on lots now too small to accommodate garages. Accessory lots don’t have to be adjoining but they do currently have to be in the same subdivision.
• Relatively new as P&Z administrator, Wirtz was not part of the code rewrite compilation process, but she has now added some of her own suggestions that were not part of what was posted as the new proposed code. She is suggesting a new zoning category for tiny home subdivisions, attaching accessory lots to main lots by deed, and requiring five-foot setbacks for sheds. Most notably though, she has proposed attaching a Letter of Noncompliance to deeds through the Recorder’s Office as a way to flag properties and let potential buyers know there is a compliance issue. Others at hearing though were concerned about clouding titles when the habitual offenders of the permitting process are not property owners but certain builders and contractors. While it might be a simple process to replace the flag with a Letter of Compliance, that is only as simple as how difficult it is to get the subject of non-compliance fixed.
•Resident Ike Skelton wanted to get rid of planning and zoning in the county in its entirety, leaving those kind of regulations to towns and cities. He claimed a petition was circulating, started by someone else, to get a question on the ballot for voters to decide whether they wanted to keep zoning or not. No names were mentioned and he left before the hearing was over.
•The planning commission tabled the hearing for further consideration and advised that more hearings would be held to continue to take public input.