Home News Local News Public lands fall under zoning rules following ETZ Authority vote

Public lands fall under zoning rules following ETZ Authority vote

The first application of the newly amended county ordinance affecting public lands is expected in December, says Chaves County Director of Planning and Zoning Marlin Johnson, shown in this photo at the Oct. 17 Extraterritorial Zoning Commission meeting. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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Chaves County officials have succeeded in their push to have public lands subject to the same zoning rules as privately owned land, and the first application of the amended ordinances are expected by the end of the year, according to a county director.

The Extraterritorial Zoning Authority voted unanimously Thursday afternoon to approve an amendment to ETZ ordinances so that lands owned by counties, cities, state or federal entities will be governed by zoning rules should the land be used for such things as solar or wind farms, cell towers, gravel pits or other projects. Building codes already apply to any structures constructed on public lands.

The changes to the two ordinances — one for the Extraterritorial areas, generally those outside the city limits but within about two miles of them, and the other for Chaves County —will take effect immediately, said Marlin Johnson, Chaves County director of Planning and Zoning.

“It could be appealed, but at this point it would have to be appealed to District Court, and I don’t see anybody doing that,” he said.

The ETZ Authority is composed of Chaves County Commissioners Robert Corn, James Duffey and Will Cavin and Roswell City Councilors Tabitha Denny and Juan Oropesa. The group of elected officials meets as needed, with its last meeting in September 2016. Corn was elected chair of the group Thursday, while Denny was voted vice-chair.

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The Chaves County Board of Commissioners, following the recommendation of the Chaves County Planning and Zoning Commission, approved the amendment Oct. 19.

Approval of the Extraterritorial Zoning Commission, a citizen group that makes recommendations to the ETZ Authority and the Board of Commissioners, was given at its Oct. 17 meeting.

All citizen and governing boards voted unanimously for the changes, and no one spoke against the proposed change on Thursday, Johnson said.

But opposition was expressed in the form of a Sept. 25 letter from Aubrey Dunn, commissioner of Public Lands. He wrote to county commissioners that they should reject any ordinance that would “purport to assert zoning jurisdiction over state trust lands.” The letter cited two court cases that, according to Dunn, were decided in favor of the State Land Office when counties had sought authority over oil and gas activities or the erection of a cell tower on state trust lands.

Johnson told the various boards and commissions that county officials had said during their comprehensive planning efforts about a year ago that they thought that zoning rules should apply equally to public and private lands. He added that the county’s aim was not to stop development or bar projects but to ensure that the public and nearby property owners were informed and that measures were taken to ensure the safety and health of people.

Johnson said the first application of the zoning ordinance likely will come in December and will involve a proposed development on property owned by the Chaves County Flood Commission.

The Chaves County Flood Commission is planning to build a new structure, Johnson said. The agency was created in 1971 by the county after the consolidation of the River Felix Flood District and the Rio Hondo-Roswell Flood District, which was originated by the city of Roswell.

The Flood Commission has been asked to leave its current offices on West Second Street, property owned by the city, and wants to establish new offices on land the commission owns on North Brown Road.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.