Thursday, July 31, 2008

you can lead a horse to water but . . .

July 30th 2008
You Can Lead a Horse to Water, But …..

I am simply amazed at the progress one makes when dealing with government on a regular basis. Many other people besides me have been working with the Union County government system for over 2 years and we do know all of their names now. We know what positions of responsibility they hold. We know that they know we are relentless in our pursuit of getting a good zoning ordinance passed for the county. What we don’t know is why in the hell they won’t listen to us.
The Planning and Zoning has this cockamamie piece of paper called a zoning ordinance. They have open meetings to discuss this, so we go and give our 2 cents worth. We tell them we don’t like parts of the ordinance and ask them to make some changes. They don’t listen and pass it on to the commissioners. The commissioners have a public hearing and we go to the meetings and give our 2 cents worth. We tell the commissioners that there are parts of this ordinance that we don’t like and ask them to make changes. The commissioners don’t listen to what we have to say and pass this ordinance thinking we won’t do anything about it, like refer it to a special election because if we do it will never pass.
These events didn’t just happen folks. It happened over a year ago. So the ordinance goes to a special election and gets defeated. The Commissioners form a task force and tell them to fix it, come back with suggestions for them to consider. They will do one of three things. 1) Accept the changes and pass them on. 2) Accept part of the changes or 3) accept none of the changes.
Well folks, it is now one year later and we are singing the same song only it’s the second verse. We made our input to the Planning and Zoning and they voted to send it on to the commissioners “as is” with one minor change. They are going to suggest…suggest mind you not change… that the county commissioners add one clause to the adult entertainment portion of the ordinance. They are going to suggest the setback from churches, schools, parks, etc. be moved to 3/4th mile, that surrounding neighbors be notified by mail and that the commission look into any additional changes. (Now comes my famous saying!) What a bunch of crap.
It is not the commissioner’s job to write the ordinance. It is the job of planning and zoning. If I were a commissioner and this came across my desk, I would fold it up, hand it back and tell them when they have a completed document to bring it back and they will act on it. The folks at the p&z are too damned lazy to put any work into something like this. All they want to do is act on plats and boundary changes. They don’t want to be responsible for making any decisions.
I’m sure everyone by now has discussed the planning and zoning meeting last week with all the discussion about adult oriented businesses and the verbiage that is in the new law passed by the state legislature. I did some research at the end of the week. I went to the county auditor’s office and asked to see the county ordinances. There is not one law pertaining to public decency or indecency for that matter. In fact the only county ordinance pertaining to anything similar is on sexual predators list.
I am going to the county commissioners meeting tomorrow and suggest the following ideas be incorporated into a county decency ordinance.
1. The county set a decency ordinance setting community standards regarding adult oriented businesses.
2. The county ordinance will be separate from the zoning ordinance. It will be a standalone document.
3. The conditional use permit in the zoning ordinance will be compliant with the county ordinance.
4. The setback on the adult business will be 3/4th mile from homes, churches, playgrounds, schools etc.
5. The ordinance will establish controls for hours of operation
6. The ordinance will set fines for violations and the sheriff will enforce this.
7. This ordinance will be set into motion as soon as possible to immediately give the ordinance full force and effect.
If you have suggestions to add to this, send me an email and I will forward your ideas to the commissioners. We need to have something like this on the books if for no other reason than to set current standards for Union County. My email is

the power of the vote

July 9th, 2008
The Power of the Vote
Time is of the essence, and a very important issue for the people of Union County is coming to a head again. There is going to be a public meeting on July 14th, at the Union County Court house at 6 p.m. on the revised 2008 zoning ordinance.
I know everyone has heard this before, but I will keep saying it until the cows come home, this is one of the most important issues affecting the lives of people in Union County. There are two contentious issues that keep coming up that are very very important. This is especially true for the rural residents of the county. One concerns your land. It has always been my contention that if I hold title to the land, pay taxes on the land that I can do with as I please as long as it doesn’t interfere with my neighbors and is within the law. Well, the county planning and zoning apparently believe otherwise.
There is an ordinance that says you can only have one house per 40 acres. The planning and zoning has added a caveat to this saying that you can have an additional dwelling on the 40 acres or a plat that is less than 40 acres provided you get a conditional use permit for the 2nd dwelling. The 2nd dwelling must be for a family member or a hired hand. Now this is where it gets sticky. The conditional use permit goes with the original applicant and when the conditional use no longer exists the dwelling must be removed.
Now the county must be going on the premise that you are going to put a mobile home on the lot and then can have it removed. What if it is a permanent dwelling setting on a foundation with a basement etc.? I consider that a permanent structure and you will play hell getting me to tear a house down because it is no longer being used for its original intent.
I don’t think we are being appeased by them saying we can have the second dwelling but need a conditional use permit for it. Why couldn’t they leave it as it was? I’ll tell you why, they don’t want acreages popping up all over the county. There are certain interest groups who don’t want acreages in Union County period. With more acreages out there, the less space there is for putting up hog confinements. Now it seems logical to me that acreages aren’t a bad deal. Acreages are taxed at a different rate than ag. Acreages are usually an area that have been a home in the past with a shelter belt and is not being used for farming anyway.
The most important thing is that it is my land and I should be able to do with it as I please. I should not have the county commissioners or planning and zoning dictate to me what I can and cannot do with my land. If someone is willing to pay the price for a piece of land, what difference should it make to the county whether or not I sell it?
Another item and probably the most critical item in the revised ordinance concerns CAFO’s (Confined Animal Feeding Operations). I do not wish to deny anyone the right to farm, but by the same token they must respect my rights as a landowner. I’m tired of hearing people say this is country get used to it. Did they say that when the refinery was a hot issue? I don’t think so. The pollution chemical is the same, it’s called Hydrogen Sulfide. This is a toxic chemical that can kill you. This chemical is released in the odor that the manure in a hog confinement creates. It is heavier than air so it travels close to the ground and can cause serious health issues. The Planning and Zoning has come up with a new twist to allow people who want to install CAFO’s that house more than 2500 pigs build them closer than 3/4th of a mile from any other dwelling. It is called an Odor Footprint Tool. This footprint tool is a THEORY that is unproven but the commissioners think is the greatest thing since night baseball. This tool says that based on the prevailing winds, if the odor is not present 96% of the time they can build a hog confinement closer than the 3/4th mile called for in the ordinance. It can be as close as ½ mile if they can prove according to their calculations that this condition exists. The problem is that this theory has many flaws and is not considered a proven theory to put into operation. It is just that, a theory. There are many contingencies that prove this will not work, but it is falling on deaf ears. The commissioners are being influenced by special interests and are not listening to the voice of the people. Is this Déjà Vu all over again or what? The commissioners are going on the theory that people will not support another special election. How many times must we do this to make the commissioners understand this is not what people want?
Remember last week I said one voice is a solo but many voices are a choir. I know I’m preaching to the choir. This is an issue that we cannot allow to happen. I’m asking you to voice your concerns to both the planning and zoning commissioners and the the county commissioners. This issue concerns not only your land and your rights. It is your heritage and your legacy. Maybe this time, the commissioners will listen to us.