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Henderson to vote on changing code for rural neighborhoods

Henderson’s City Council will vote Tuesday on an update to the city’s existing code that would prevent over 20 types of businesses from building in the city’s rural neighborhoods and add restrictions to churches and schools that want to build in those zones.

An ordinance on the upcoming City Council agenda will change Henderson’s code for rural neighborhood overlay zones to exclude 27 types of businesses from building in the neighborhoods. Those businesses range from airports, transitional housing for offenders, farmers markets and indoor sports facilities.

The ordinance will add restrictions to schools and religious establishments that will be built in the rural neighborhoods. To receive a permit to build in a rural neighborhood zone, a school or religious building needs to be directly connected to one of 14 major roads that run through the rural neighborhood zones and make sure that its events and attendees don’t disturb the surrounding neighborhood and that the buildings are small enough with limited lighting to fit into the surrounding community.

“That’s kind of why we’re making these changes to prevent certain uses that we definitely do not want to see in a rural neighborhood,” said Eddie Dichter, Henderson’s assistant director of community development.

Dichter said the ordinance originally arose after feedback from some residents in neighborhood community meetings. He said some rural neighborhood residents went into the city code and pointed out some approved businesses that would only need a zoning variance to be built in rural neighborhood preservation zones.

From there, Dichter said city employees evaluated which projects had been approved before in rural neighborhoods, and started work on the code changes.

Projects that were already approved and already have a permit, like the Hindu temple approved by council last year to be built near Berlin Street and Milan Avenue, will still be allowed to go forward, even if the project does not meet the new code requirements. For example, the temple does not meet the major road requirement.

Dichter said while previous approvals and community feedback led to the ordinance, the temple’s approval last year did not directly lead to the code change. When asked about the possibility that it may have indirectly led to the ordinance, Dichter said he did not know.

Eric Treene, a lawyer specializing in religious law, said the ordinance needs to ensure the code does not violate the religious assembly protections in the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act by making sure not to discriminate against specific religions. The ordinance should also not eliminate reasonable opportunities to set up places of worship in the city or place an unreasonable burden on any religious exercises.

Henderson Principal Planner Jared Tasko said any religious assembly that fits the code would still be within walking distance for residents of rural neighborhoods and nearby neighborhoods, because of how small the neighborhoods are.

Despite the new restrictions, a handful of other uses including parks and recreation, public safety and short-term vacation rentals will be allowed in rural neighborhood zones, according to Tasko.

The ordinance will be introduced at a City Council committee meeting at 3:45 p.m. Tuesday, where the council will decide whether to advance it for discussion and a possible vote at the regular council meeting at 4 p.m. that day.

Contact Mark Credico at mcredico@reviewjournal.com. Follow him on Instagram @writermark2.

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