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Zoning ordinance changed to address commercial farms and sewage leaks

By Randy Bell

After the City abandoned a proposal to give local leaders a means to restrict commercial hog farms by rezoning agricultural property in Clinton, the Board of Aldermen has gone in a different direction, amending the zoning ordinance to require a conditional use permit for such large-scale farm projects.

The earlier proposal last year created an uproar among farmers opposed to having their land rezoned as Residential Estate. Under the change approved November 7, the zoning would stay the same, but anyone wanting to operate a commercial hog farm, poultry farm or feed lot would have to seek City approval.

“Anything larger than what our animal control ordinance allows [would be considered commercial],” says Director of Community Development Roy Edwards.

Under state law, the City is not allowed to prohibit those operations outright.

“We can’t say ‘no,’ but we can choose [whether to grant a permit] on a case-by-case basis,” said Edwards.

The Board also approved another zoning amendment outlining the process for dealing with unrepaired sewer leaks on private property.

“They wanted to give [property owners] ninety days to come up with a plan of action or to fix it,” Edwards says. “If they haven’t done that, then they have another ninety days to get completely finished with it or have their water cut off.”

Public Works Director Phillip Lilley says most people are unaware of sewer leaks unless the sewage backs up in their home.

“By the time we realize there’s a major issue, it’s flooded on down the line and has discharged into someone else’s house,” Lilley says. “What we’re trying to do now is, while we’re fixing things on the City’s side, there are [sewage issues] that we have found on private property. We want to be able to say, ‘Look, here’s the leak, you need to fix this, fast.’ The faster we get things fixed, it’ll help minimize the issues on down the line—the sewer line.”

Lilley points out that sewage line breaks that allow rainwater to seep in put an added strain on the City’s treatment plants.

“You have high volumes of water coming [into the plants],” Lilley says. “The pumps are working continuously, non-stop. They’re overworked.”

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