For the first time in Douglas County history, owners of any rural home-based business will be required to register with the county.
Business owners will have until Jan. 31, 2001, to register their businesses under a resolution county commissioners approved Wednesday. Once their firms are registered, business owners will be issued a 12-month permit that must be renewed annually.
The move comes as part of an effort to bring rural businesses in compliance with zoning ordinances within a five-year period.
Months in the making, the resolution wasn't without controversy.
"You guys are picking on home businesses," said George Powell, a 38-year soil conservation contractor, one of about 25 people at Wednesday's meeting. "This country was founded on home businesses."
Commissioners disagreed they were picking on anyone, saying they were simply trying to make sure everyone complies with the law.
"What we're doing is in response to neighbors and your neighbors who say: what are we going to do about these trucks or about people who aren't paying commercial taxes," Commissioner Charles Jones said.
If people do not register, the business must cease operation and all equipment must be removed from the site. County officials expect to hear about violators from neighbors, and they'll hire additional staff to help administer the rules.
Commission Chairman Tom Taul said he doesn't want to see anyone lose his or her business.
"We're going to work with people as much as they can, but they need to come in so we can help them stay in business," he said.
Some minor variances, such as building sizes or property line setbacks, probably will be allowed. To receive a variance, people must make a request to the Board of Zoning Appeals or first talk to Keith Dabney, the county's director of zoning and codes, commissioners said.
Under the new rules, the most affected will be businesses such as contractor, welding or machine shops with outside storage or more than four employees. Those businesses, now operating in agricultural areas, will not meet the new zoning standards and will have five years to find a properly zoned place to relocate.
If land is not available by 2006, commissioners said the permit process will continue until areas are properly zoned.
"We understand there's a lack of commercial or industrial land in the county, and our goal is to get additional areas zoned, which will allow people that are in noncompliance to be able to continue," Taul said.
Commissioners plan to ask the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission to start looking next year for different sites that could be rezoned.
Powell, a the soil conservation contractor, said he thought some people may challenge the new rules in court. Powell's business will not be affected because he was "grandfathered" in when the county first adopted zoning regulations in 1966.
The annual permits will carry a fee, but an amount has not been set yet. Commissioners tentatively will discuss the fees Monday and adopt the fee schedule on Nov. 13.