One of the bigger questions raised by Hyperion’s decision Sunday to pull its purchase options: Does this mean the land will revert to agricultural zoning?
Union County voters in 2008 approved an ordinance (pdf) to rezone a few thousand acres of farmland as planned development to accommodate the $10 billion refinery and power plant.
Now that the company no longer has an option to buy the land, does that change the zoning?
It does not, Union County zoning director Dennis Henze said. The land will be zoned for a refinery unless a landowner, or the county, files an application to re-rezone the area; then the planning and zoning board and county commission would have to approve the application.
The no-longer-optioned land has been under the plow while the refinery’s permitting is sorted out in court, and it will be considered farmland until people stop using it to grow crops, Henze said.
“It may have on a map somewhere that it’s a planned development, but it’s taxed ag, it’s assessed ag, and that will not change until it starts being put into a different use than agricultural,” he said.
Henze said there was a request when the Hyperion rezoning ordinance was written to include language that would allow reversion to agricultural zoning. But “state law doesn’t allow us to just let land revert back,” he said.
In other words, until the county approves another rezoning ordinance, all that farmland is — on paper, at least — the future home of a 400,000-barrel-per-day oil refinery. It does not matter who has a legal claim to the title.