Addressing negative slants
February 22, 2013
Re: Washington County Zoning Ordinance
To the Editor:
The issue I want to address in this commentary has to do with the extreme negative slant that has been cast upon rural zoning, and frankly, anyone who has had anything to do with its origins in our county. I’ve encountered numerous misconceptions about the ordinance, and in fact, have come to the determination that there are those who choose to spread disinformation rather than study the facts.
In a recent letter to the editor of The Washington Evening Journal the writer cites “government intrusion” and states “we are referring specifically to the blatant destruction by a zoning ordinance of one’s right to sell his or her rural property to whomever one chooses,” adding, “One should not be forced to sell only to farmers because the land in question may be zoned for agricultural use only.” This is a classic example of anti-zoning rhetoric. The zoning ordinance has no restriction on who you can sell your land to and none of the land in our county is zoned for “agricultural use only.” Yes, certain buffers must be established before a new residential home can be built next to a farming operation, but doesn’t that make sense?’
One morning last spring an elderly couple visited my office and I noticed that the wife was in tears. When I asked her what was wrong, she replied, “They told me you wouldn’t let us rebuild our home which was just destroyed in the tornado down near Wayland.” After spending a few minutes reviewing their plans, I assured them there was not any zoning issue preventing them from rebuilding. I left the office at the end of that day thinking, “It’s a sad day in our county when people spread rumors and prey on the fears of our older generation.” My hope is that this was not done in order to promote a political agenda.
I suppose in some ways zoning can be likened to a flu shot or an immunization. It can help to prevent some very negative things that can go wrong between land uses that are not compatible. We have some of those already in our county and without zoning I am certain there will be more. I’ve come to realize that after the flu shot nobody goes out to tell others what a great thing it was. Similarly, very few who believe that zoning is a positive tool for helping shape the future of Washington County feel the necessity to go on public record about its positive elements.
The Washington County supervisors have scheduled a workshop to encourage public discussion about zoning on Tuesday, March 5, at 6:30 p.m. at the Extension Building on the fairgrounds. They want to know how the public feels about the zoning ordinance, and I hope some who understand the goals it works to achieve will join in the discussion.
If you would like to learn more about why zoning is a necessary tool for Washington County, or read about the variety of myths I have encountered about zoning, browse to the Washington County Planning & Zoning Web site at>http://co.washington.ia.us./departments/planning/index.htm>.
Washington County Planning & Zoning Administrator