North Platte Planning Commission moves forward ‘hunting overlays’ proposal for Lee Bird annexation |  Local

North Platte Planning Commission moves forward ‘hunting overlays’ proposal for Lee Bird annexation | Local

North Platte Planning Commission members Tuesday unanimously endorsed two ordinances suggested during recent public discussion on annexing Lee Bird Field.

Hunting access at and near the Platte River forks is involved in both ordinances. The City Council will take them up March 15 alongside final votes on the four-parcel annexation package.

The first measure would let the council carve out areas inside city limits where differents could be discharged despite city codes generally forbidding it.

It would continue existing exemptions for “licensed shooting galleries” or live shows “duly authorized or licensed.”

Council approval of that ordinance, said Planning Administrator Judy Clark, would set the stage for a special zoning “overlay district” that would let hunting continue along the Platte and its two branches in the annexation area.

Overlay districts don’t change their area’s regular zoning, but they define particular activities to be allowed, forbidden or regulated beyond those allowed by their zoning district.

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Besides allowing hunting to continue along the rivers, Clark said, the first ordinance would let the council identify areas where hunter education classes involving shooting could be held.

The second ordinance recommended Tuesday would apply a zoning overlay district to Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District’s 86.32 acres at and around the forks.

Central operates its Tri-County Project diversion dam just below the forks, sending irrigation water from the combined Platte into its canal running southeast and connecting Jeffrey, Midway and Johnson lakes.

The Holdrege-based district’s holdings also encompasses the smallest and southernmost of the four parcels in the nearly 2,000-acre annexation package.

Mike Drain, Central’s natural resources and compliance manager, has said the irrigation district generally forbids public hunting on its land but grants special permits to its own employees and board members.

The overlay-district ordinance would allow hunting as permitted by Central “and regulated by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission” or other state agencies charged with enforcing state hunting regulations.

Other potential speech between city zoning and Central’s operations prompted the crafting of the overlay-district ordinance, Clark said.

Besides its hunting clause, the measure would confirm that Central can operate the diversion dam and build structures if they’re “necessary for operations.”

It also would exempt Central from the city’s regular codes on vegetation but require the district to maintain “trees, shrubs, vines or flowers” ​​on or near public rights-of-way “as to not cause an obstruction or impede public travel.”

Drain said Central, which hasn’t opposed its part of the airport annexation package, supports the overlay district and its terms.

“We generally have an expectation that city ordinances shouldn’t interfere with our operations anyway,” he told the Planning Commission. But the overlay district “is a good additional step.”

The City Council will hold public hearings on both ordinances endorsed Tuesday before holding first-round debate and votes next week.

Council members could decide to waive one or more votes on the pair — an option they generally enjoy but couldn’t invoke under state law with the four Lee Bird-area annexation ordinances.

In other business, Clark said the Planning Commission’s proposed package of residential zoning updates will appear on the panel’s next regular agenda March 22.

Its main highlight would reduce the number of residential district types from four to three. Mobile home parks would gain their own dedicated districts, while single mobile homes planted on residential lots would be grandfathered.

The planning panel will hold a public hearing before voting whether to recommend the updates to the council, Clark said.

Council members received a preview of the package during a nonvoting Feb. 3 work session attended by several Planning Commission members.

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