Due to expected attendance at the meeting, the 1:30 p.m. meeting on Wednesday, March 16 has been moved to the Holt County Annex at 128 N. 6th Street, O’Neill, NE 68763.

The Holt County Planning and Zoning Board met to a full house at the O’Neill Assembly of God last Monday evening. The meeting was dominated by a public hearing on a proposed moratorium on all industrial pipelines, wind and solar energy development and commercial livestock operations requiring an 18-month conditional use permit. Members of the Holt County Planning and Zoning Commission are Mary Kaczor, Keith May, Gene Kelly, Verdon Smith, Dan Grass, John Krysl, Gene Soukup, Frank Heying and Kevin DeKay, who was absent.

The crowd, represented by people from across the county, were concerned about the effects the moratorium would have on the county’s economic development over the proposed two-year period. Most important was the effect for livestock farmers.

The council said the need for the moratorium was to prepare planning and zoning for the future by stepping back and revamping the 40-year-old zoning regulations the county currently has in place. Mary Kaczor said: “The county was nearly sued by the pipeline and we think we need to look at things in the interests of the people. The guidelines are supposed to be reviewed every 10 years and ours go back to 1980. A lot of things have changed in 40 years and if you go to court they will reverse your overall plan.” The commission hired a company to help them revamp their plan. The company will help with investigations and will also help the commission guide the county as to where it wants to go. The companies they looked at said they needed a moratorium due to the lack of information covered by the current comprehensive plan and with the potential for upcoming projects such as the CO2 pipeline and possibly another pipeline project, they must be prepared for the health and well-being of the inhabitants of the department.

“Supervisors had to deal with this 30 years ago,” said Mary Kaczor. “We don’t want to harm Holt County. Its commercial and industrial sectors. That’s what this is about.”

The committee answered questions from the audience. Most of the questions were asked by ranchers in the crowd who wanted to know why the backbone of the county, being livestock, would need to have roadblocks, especially in these times of low interest rates. They expressed fears that this roadblock could potentially set back any economic development that may arise. “Having or limiting the amount of livestock and livestock is not a good idea,” said Gerard Keating of Atkinson. “At this point, our county has gotten smaller and revenue has gone down. Why would we want to do that? The current situation we find ourselves in is the result of poor leadership at the state and county level” , Keating said.

Concern about the duration of the moratorium as well as the restriction of livestock grumbled the crowd. After much discussion and much commentary from the crowd, the council asked the crowd to raise their hands for the commercial ranching operations to be removed from the moratorium. An overwhelming show of hands told the board that the crowd wanted him out.

After the close of the public hearing, the council met in ordinary session. The council amended its proposal to leave commercial cattle out of the moratorium. Mary Kaczor, Keith May, Verdon Smith, Dan Grass, John Krysl and Frank Heying voted yes. Voting No were Gene Kelly and Gene Soukup. The proposal will now go to the meeting of supervisors this Wednesday, March 16 at 1:30 p.m.

Due to expected attendance at the meeting, the 1:30 p.m. meeting on Wednesday, March 16 has been moved to the Holt County Annex at 128 N. 6th Street, O’Neill, NE 68763.