To the editor:

The meeting of the Clay County Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday, Nov. 29, was an exercise in ignoring our county ordinances in favor of special interest groups. Four of the five committee members voted to change the zoning of property just east of Clay County Park from Natural Resources Conservation District to Rural Residential in order to pave the way for an 18-unit housing development.

This property fronts the Missouri National Recreational River—our National Park! This land is zoned NCRS for a reason—it serves as a natural drainage area, provides protection from floods and erosion, preserves a natural setting for wildlife habitat, and adds to the aesthetic quality of the community. These are all definitions from the Clay County Zoning Ordinance.

Many believe that permitting development will be a money maker for the city and the county, through tax revenues and increasing property values. But shouldn’t we consider the river in its natural state as a more valuable resource? People come to national parks to enjoy the wilderness and to escape from the crowds, noise and pollution of cities and other inhabited areas. We wouldn’t enjoy the Badlands or Wind Cave National Park nearly as much if these areas contained housing developments, even small ones.

“Oh, it’s only a little development and won’t impact the river that much,” many will say. But if zoning is changed and development ensues in this spot, how long will it be before that happens on other parts of the river? The more we chip away at areas of the river with development, the more we diminish the natural state, until it is completely lost.

The Missouri River National Recreational River is a special place—there is nothing like it anywhere else. Why don’t we capitalize on that? Protecting the river front will encourage more tourism, bringing people into the city and the county with their dollars to spend. Is it worth changing the zoning for the benefit of 18 privileged families, while diminishing the experience of hundreds of others who come to enjoy the wild and scenic Missouri?

Thank you to Jerry Prentice who voted against the zoning change. I hope the members of the Clay County Commission will be just as far-sighted at their meeting on Dec. 28.

Susanne Skyrm


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