Douglas County Commission approves rezoning of property for rural retreat

Douglas County commissioners Wednesday evening unanimously approved the rezoning of about 209 acres of rural property for use as a rural retreat.

The decision followed the voicing of concerns regarding the project by a handful of county residents. Among those concerns were increased traffic, increased hunting activity and a departure from the rural character of the area, which is located in the 700 block of East 1300 Road.

“If there isn’t some way to restrict hunting, to preserve the guys who live there, then I think there ought to be some way to come to an agreement,” said county resident Bill Mitchell, whose property sits just west of the proposed future retreat. Other residents called the hunting activity and an assumed increase of hunters “dangerous” and “not good.”

The land is currently zoned as agricultural, which allows hunting there. Residents in attendance Wednesday said they regularly hear gunshots from hunters in the area. County Commissioner Jim Flory, who lives on rural county property, noted that the county’s governing body is not allowed to regulate the activity, per decisions made in the courts. The rezoning, which required unanimous approval because of a valid petition from concerned residents, will classify the land for rural tourism.

The proposed retreat could include horse paths, walking and hiking trails, and as many as 13 cabins. The facilities could also include a 12,000-square-foot conference center with potential for hosting corporate retreats.

Project representatives argued the increased activity could decrease the overall population of hunters in the area, as extra precautions would have to be taken with more people on the property.

While the commission’s decision allows the project to move forward, the commissioners still maintain control of the proceedings. Any site plan proposals are required to appear before the County Commission for approval, and commissioners included a condition to notify all property owners adjacent to the land before any such plans could be approved.

“This commission has been committed to encouraging growth in special areas,” said County Commissioner Nancy Thellman. “This change is a way to preserve some fabulous natural resources.”

Flory added that reservations from residents had not gone unheard.

“I understand the concerns of the neighbors,” he said. “And all things considered, I think the applicant has done a good job putting together a project that will enhance our county.”