I Tell It Like It Is!
November 4th, 2009
I tell it like it is!
This week’s article is a no brainer. For those of you who were unable to make it to the board of adjustment hearing last Thursday, I am printing excerpts from the speech I gave to the board. At the end of the meeting, my lawyer informed them that they were in violation of SDCL (South Dakota Codified Law) and the rules of the zoning ordinance. The board then decided this hearing was not a legal meeting and adjourned, to be reconvened at a later date. (I really hate to be correcting government officials all the time.)
It is my belief that Mr. Henze, acting in the performance of his job as the Union County Planning Director, has taken actions in regards to signs posted in Union County which is both wrong and inappropriate.
In a letter to Mr. Ed Cable on August 14, 2009, Dennis Henze stated that all ‘vote no Hyperion’ and ‘save Union County’ signs must be taken down and removed or he will have them removed at the owner’s expense.
Mr. Cable responded that the ‘Save Union County’ signs were not political and not subject to the county’s actions. Mr. Henze sent another letter on the 15th of September again stating these signs are political and must be removed.
This affects me personally as I have two ‘Save Union County’ signs posted on my property.
At the commissioners meeting on the 11th of August, Commissioner Ross Jordan asked Mr. Henze just how long these ‘vote no’ signs are allowed to stay up. He said they say ‘vote no’ so it is obviously related to a vote. He said he was sick and tired of looking at these ugly signs and that the vote is long over.
The ‘vote no’ signs were put up well before the county-wide referendum in June of 2008. The save union county signs even longer. At the time these signs were governed by the 1978 zoning ordinance. The 1978 ordinance makes no reference to how long they may remain up. I contend that the ‘Vote No’ signs and the ‘Save Union County’ signs are governed by the old ordinance.
The new ordinance that went into effect on the 12th of November 2008 does reference that all ‘political’ signs must be removed within 5 days after the election. This is where things get complicated.
#1. I just don’t see how you can interpret an ordinance to say that something done under the old ordinance that was legal is now illegal and therefore subject to the directives of the current ordinance. It certainly doesn’t say that anywhere in the new ordinance. In fact, it doesn’t even say this ordinance supersedes the old one.
#2. The new zoning ordinance has no definition of the term ‘political’, besides, it is my contention that ‘save union county’ signs are not political signs and were never intended to be political or they would have had ‘paid for’ or the ‘ballot question committee’ statement on them.
#3. There is no presumption that a sign stating: ‘Save Union County’-- is political. If the sign had a cross in the upper left hand corner, would it be a religious sign? Or is it still a personal sign. I contend that since no political statements or symbols like a donkey or an elephant are present, ‘Save Union County’ is a personal sign that expresses a personal opinion-- nothing more, and nothing less.
By Mr. Henze saying it is his interpretation that these are political signs is nothing more than one person's opinion, but because of his appointed position, it is tantamount to censorship if he exerts his personal agenda on citizens under the guise of enforcing a portion of the current zoning ordinance. Where in this ordinance does it give Mr. Henze the authority to censor the content of signs? The ordinance does not give Mr. Henze the authority to act beyond the scope of the ordinance.
I think that Mr. Henze purposely intended to infringe upon the people’s Constitutional Right to freely and openly express their personal opinions, which is the essence of Freedom of Speech under the 1st Amendment of the Constitution. Furthermore, I believe that Mr. Henze intended to intimidate us to remove the ‘Save Union County’ signs by the threat of unlawful search and seizure which is prohibited under the 4th Amendment of the Constitution.
The County Commissioners appointed Mr. Henze to his position. He was not elected. He is our employee. His interpretation of the Ordinance should not be final. Rather, also be the subject of the board’s objective judgment.
He is abusing his position as the Union County Planning Director to intimate people by using the zoning ordinance as a weapon to threaten and punish people who disobey him. Tolerance of a person’s right to freedom of speech and opinion should always be given the utmost respect. The threat of unlawful search and seizure is totally out of line and unacceptable.
1) I am requesting that Mr. Henze be ordered to cite the specific Article(s) and Section(s) that grant him the authority and power to order us to remove personal property from our land.
2) I am requesting that he be required to make a written detailed statement of the guidelines that he used to justify his decision in this matter.
3) I am requesting that you to reverse Mr. Henze’s order directing us to remove personal property from our land on the grounds that the Ordinance as cited above does not authorize his actions and that Mr. Henze acted beyond the scope of his authority and employment by ordering the removal of the signs.
4) I am asking that the planning and zoning commissioners take the necessary steps to ensure that there is never a repeat of this abuse by the Union County Planning Director.