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Officials aiming to streamline zoning ordinances

RINCON — The City of Rincon is working on condensing its voluminous and frequently confusing zoning ordinances.

City Planner Jason Stewart and City Attorney Raymond Dickey have been working together on the project for a few months. They presented 73 pages of definitions and draft ordinances to the Rincon City Council for discussion during a June 21 workshop at Lost Plantation Golf Club.

“It’s just been a fight and a struggle to make sure everything is in line because this city started with boiler plate ordinances for zoning and development that were developed many, many years ago,” Dickey said. 

In the 1980s, the City of Rincon started using “The Growth Management Code,” a series of ordinances written by an engineering firm.

“It was fairly comprehensive but, when you look at it, it’s almost like it was written from the engineering standpoint versus a planning standpoint and a legal standpoint on what was needed, and what was required to be in it because that’s really where you start,” Dickey said. “You have to put those basic things in there and then you can expand it.”

Subsequent zoning ordinances and the Growth Management Code frequently conflict, making it more difficult for the council to make zoning decisions. An ordinance manual put together in 2012, which was intended to supercede the Growth Management Code, “left a lot of empty holes,” Dickey explained.

“When you are actually applying it practically, you start seeing some of the shortcomings,” Stewart said. “We want it clear for the citizens, the developers and, most importantly, for the council because the council is interpreting the rules for the citizens and developers. We want things to be as clear and succinct as possible.”

When conflicts have arisen in the past, Dickey has recommended that the council base zoning decisions on what he believes is the best “legally defensible” position.

Dickey and Stewart hope to have a final 234-page draft for the council to consider late this year or early next year.

“I think we can get through the process in a reasonable amount of time,” Stewart said. “You just have to come to a consensus.”