Watchman's Quarters under fire

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MOUND HOUSE -- A recent suggestion by Lyon County Planning Commissioner Ken Gardner to eliminate watchman's quarters has raised concern among business owners.

Mound House resident Jim Wallace said the need and logic for allowing watchman's quarters has not changed since the ordinance's inception in the 1970s, and he did not agree with Gardner's suggestion the homes have outlived their usefulness.

"It adds security to the property at an economic benefit to the business owner. They also add value to the property," he said. "Insurance for businesses with watchman's quarters is lower, sometimes as much as 400 percent. We don't want to add hardship to the business owners."

He also noted growth in the area is outpacing the sheriff department's ability to adequately patrol the industrial areas. He urged the commissioners to set up a committee of residents and county officials to discuss ways to better enforce the existing ordinance and eliminate abuse.

"We can't support elimination of watchman's quarters, but we can support enforcement," he said. We ask that legitimate uses be allowed to continue and come to some reasonable resolution on this."

Under County Code Title 10, business owners may apply for a special use permit to place "watchman's quarters" -- usually mobile-home residences -- on property zoned for industrial purposes. The residences may not be used as rental properties.

However, there have been increasing complaints of business owners illegally renting out the homes, providing themselves an additional source of income and avoiding more restrictive residential codes.

Commission Chairman Phyllis Hunewill told attendees of a recent meeting on the topic, "I think you all realize there are some abuses out there and those are the incidents we hear about. We welcome the opportunity to hear your concerns. If we do agendize this, there will be public hearings."

Others have questioned the advisability of continuing to allow homes in industrial areas, citing a recent conflict over the location of a tantalum powder manufacturing plant in the Mound House Industrial Park.

Business owners living in watchman's quarters said such industry should not be located so close to their residences.

In proposing the elimination of watchman's quarters, Gardner suggested a sunset period of 4-5 years to allow residents ample time to move. He said the rural nature of the county existing when the ordinance was established has now changed, outdating the need for the residential units within industrial zones.

Title 10 has been under review by the county for more than three years. Gardner, a member of the review committee, said proposed changes, including those affecting watchman's quarters, would be brought before local advisory boards for discussion.


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