The Natrona County Commission on Tuesday killed a proposed amendment to the county's Zoning Resolution that would have deleted the "natural expansion doctrine" that was critical to a couple winning a court case over their collector cars earlier this year.

"This may end up just having more lawsuits," commissioner Rob Hendry said after dozens of people spoke against the amendment during a two hour public hearing.

"I don't think we need that," Hendry said.

No one spoke in favor of it.

Opponents called it unconstitutional, unnecessary, a waste of time, part of a United Nations plan for world domination, and an infringement on private property rights.

The doctrine says if you have a legal nonconforming business use, also known as a grandfathered use, you have a right to expand that business use, Deputy County Attorney Heather Duncan-Malone said.

For example, if a land owner has 10 acres and two of those acres were used for a sawmill before zoning regulations were put into effect, the sawmill operation could expand to more acres even if subsequent zoning regulations forbade such business uses.

Deleting the natural expansion doctrine, which did not exist in the county's zoning resolution until 2000, would not have affected "grandfathering" land uses. She and some county officials believed deleting the sometimes convoluted language would have made the zoning resolution clearer.

Opponents sharply disagreed.

Judy Jones, who with her husband Dana, successfully waged a lengthy and expensive legal battle with the county over their massive vehicle collections on Eight Mile Road and west of Casper on U.S. Highway 20-26.

She told the commissioners that the amendment wouldn't affect their properties, but it would affect others, some of whom would sue and be successful because of their court victory in January. "This is nothing short of a slap in the face to the court."

After the hearing, commissioner Bill McDowell said the court case prompted the need for County Attorney Bill Knight and consult with the development department and the county's advisory Planning and Zoning Commission, which voted in July to delete the natural expansion doctrine amendment.
Hendry acknowledged that tough job. Zoning is designed to protect property rights, which sometimes are at odds, he said. "Planning and Zoning is not easy."

Commissioner Terry Wingerter made the motion to deny the text amendment, and McDowell seconded it, acknowledging the battery of criticisms and the work of the Planning and Zoning Commission and the development department.

The three commissioners voted to deny the amendment. Chairman Forrest Chadwick did not vote because of the majority. Commissioner Matt Keating was absent.

After the meeting, Judy Jones voiced relief at the outcome.

"It just goes to show that when you stand up you have to stand together, not only to stand up for yourself but others," she said. "Like I said, we had no dog in the fight, but I wanted to make sure nobody else had to go through what we went through."