Commissioners hire firm to assist with update of county’s comprehensive plan and review of proposed new zoning regulations

YORK COUNTY – The York County Commissioners have hired a firm from David City to assist in the months-long process of updating the county’s comprehensive plan as well as the immediate task of reviewing the county’s proposed zoning regulations pertaining to solar projects.

Tuesday morning, May 14, when they met in regular session, the county board members (all five of them, now that Andy Bowman has been appointed the otherwise vacated seat) agreed to hire Marvin Planning Consultants.

Keith Marvin met with the board, along with Nate Heinz, the county’s zoning administrator.

Marvin said he met Heinz at a statewide conference; and then later, he had a meeting with Heinz and York County Chairman Randy Obermier.

“All we do is city and county planning, zoning projects and related studies,” Marvin told the commissioners. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years, we have three professional planners in our firm and three summer interns. We are busy. I’ve worked with nearly 50 counties in Nebraska and with our staff we’ve worked with 90 counties throughout the United States. We have also dealt with many matters related to renewable energy.”

He said they are working with many Nebraska counties now, “and it would be a pleasure to work with York County.”

Marvin also noted his firm has worked with the City of Henderson twice, in the updating of the municipality’s comprehensive plan.

“Every 10 years, the county needs to update the comprehensive plan,” Heinz reminded the board members. “And the last one was completed 10 years ago. So it’s time to do it again.”

Marvin said his proposal would be for a complete update of the county’s comprehensive plan and zoning regulations, which would be a months-long process. They would also go through the county’s renewable energy matters – now – as part of that project.

“Yes, the comprehensive plan is a months-long process, involving everyone,” Obermier said. “But we would also like to talk about our renewable energy project zoning now. We found his firm to be very professional and seeing how he is working with nearby counties which are similar to York County, we feel they would be a good fit. A total fee is anticipated at $50,000 and I recommend the money come from our ARPA (federal COVID relief) funds to get this done now and keep the cost away from the taxpayers.”

Marvin said if the county commissioners signed the contract now, work would start in June, “and we’d get the ball rolling.”

“This is something the state says we have to do, correct, as far as updating the comprehensive plan?” asked Commissioner LeRoy Ott.

Obermier said yes, the requirement is by law — comprehensive plans are required for counties and municipalities.

Commissioner Andy Bowman asked if the planning commission members would be informed about a contract with the firm and how their involvement would come into play in the process.

Obermier said he reached out to the planning commission members to say this was going to be on their agenda. “And the planning commission is an advisory committee to us, so Nate (Heinz) would be the point of contact through this.”

Commissioner Daniel Grotz said he agreed with Bowman’s question about the involvement of the planning commission, saying, “We need to keep the planning commission members involved. I realize we are the board who signs the check (to hire the consulting firm) but do we need to involve them sooner than later about our decision on who we hire?”

“Because this deals with professional services, that takes out a need to take bids,” Obermier said. “And this firm looks like a good fit.”

“And about that, I agree,” Grotz said.

“They stood out among the rest (of the same type of firms) as they’ve worked with many smaller, agricultural-based counties like ours,” Heinz added.

“Have you worked primarily with rural counties?” Grotz asked Marvin.

Marvin said they have worked with urban areas, they’ve worked with Hall County, Lincoln County, Cherry County, Polk County, Seward County . . . and many others, of different sizes and types. “We can adjust and understand both types. But our livelihood and reputation is mostly based on work with agricultural and rural counties. We’ve worked with all different varieties and elements. We always make sure the planning commission is involved in putting together the comprehensive plan.”

The update of the comprehensive plan involves extensive involvement of the planning commission, public meetings, public hearings, public input, etc.

“We always are as transparent as we can be, and we work hard to provide information in all sorts of forms – hard copy and digital – so everyone is informed,” Marvin said. “We want all that information to be out there for everyone. We look for different ways to reach out to people.”

“Well, as we have seen through the past years, York County residents like to be involved and have their voices heard,” Grotz said. “Where I was going with this, is that we are definitely an ag-related, rural county and we are not opposed to growth, but we want to keep a focus on who we are. I’m comfortable moving forward with the Marvin company. And I also think we need to engage the planning commission from the get-go.”

“There will be a lot of meetings and the first will be a kick-off with the planning commission,” Marvin said. “You will see us out there, there will be a lot of public meetings.”

“I’m also glad they will be looking at our proposed solar regulations right away,” Grotz said.

All five commissioners voted yes to hiring Marvin Planning Consultants in this process.

 

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