‘Get it gone’
Nothing in the Washington County Planning and Zoning Commission (P & Z) report on the impact of rescinding the zoning ordinance made county supervisor Stan Stoops change his opinion of the ordinance. He listened to everything P & Z chairman Don Kline had to say about the report during the county supervisors’ regular meeting Tuesday, June 4.
At the end of Kline’s presentation of the report, Stoops asked county attorney Larry Brock to develop all the steps necessary to rescind zoning.
“What I am requesting of that is that you break it down and will you e-mail me with each exact step, how much time is required in between each step and what is to take place on each step up to the final vote,” Stoops said.
Brock did not answer Stoops’ question. He presented a letter he had written to the board about how the board could respond to the P & Z Commission.
“Basically, the way I view it, there’s three responses that the board could do,” Brock said. “One response is to acknowledge the report and leave zoning as it is. The second one is to acknowledge the report and adopt the recommendations of the commission and work with the commission to amend or modify zoning, and the third option is to move forward to repeal zoning,” Brock said.
He then outlined some of the steps the board could take, but added that he could be more specific.
“I’d like that,” Stoops said.
Early in the board’s discussion of the report, the supervisors unanimously approved a motion to acknowledge receiving the report.
Supervisor and board chairman Ron Bennett said he hoped the supervisors would keep portions of the zoning ordinance, such as the section dealing with floodplain regulations. He said he favored modifying the ordinance even if the supervisors cut out 90 percent of the ordinance.
“My feelings on that now is to get rid of everything,” Stoops said. “Get it gone.”
He said the majority of people in the county want to get rid of zoning.
When Bennett continued to suggest keeping the ordinance and modifying it, Stoops said he still wanted to get rid of the ordinance even if some kind of zoning ordinance would be needed in the future. He also criticized the commission because the members were 100 percent in favor of the ordinance.
“There’s no checks and balances there,” Stoops said.
Zoning administrator Steve Lafaurie said that the board of supervisors “is the check and balance on any action P & Z takes.”
“You guys are the ultimate bottom line on any action that is taken with any kind of rezoning or the ordinance,” Lafaurie said.
Supervisor Jack Seward Jr. disagreed with Lafaurie. He said that the way the regulations and guidelines are written, the supervisors have no choice but to approve a zoning request from a resident if it complies with the ordinance.
Stoops also said that he wants to dissolve the commission altogether and appoint people who saw “good things” and “bad things” about zoning.
Kline argued that while the commission voted to retain the zoning ordinance, some members don’t like some aspects of zoning. He said the commission would be happy to work with the supervisors to make needed changes.
One of the big selling points for the zoning ordinance was that it would cut down on conflicts between rural residents because of incompatible uses. The people who have already obtained zoning permits since the ordinance went into effect on July 1, 2010, might have some expectation that the ordinance protects their property rights and property values, Kline said.
Seward said, “You say that this is really protecting everybody’s property rights and the value of their property and everything like that, but is that the government’s responsibility? Everybody takes a chance with whatever they do, with wherever they go, whatever work they do. Times change. Things change. There are a lot of things that happen and it’s not government’s responsibility to guarantee that everything’s going to remain the same and everything’s going up and up and up.”
Seward also said that he doesn’t think it’s right for the government to decide what a compatible or incompatible use is.
Supervisor Bob Yoder told Kline, “No government regulation can make property values to go up or down.”
Yoder said he’s been in business for 28 years, and what affects property values has more to do with economics than with government regulation.
Before the discussion ended, Supervisor Steve Davis said, “I guess people probably aren’t going to like what I’m saying. Years ago I said no on zoning, but over the years there have been some good things and still some bad things. I’d be more apt to look at what Ron’s saying and go back and change it.”
The supervisors took no other formal action on zoning.
In other business, Seward said that The Washington Journal published a story about Washington County Deputy Robyn Hoppman being named the 2012 Office of the Year by the Iowa Association of Women’s Police.
“I just wanted to bring that to the supervisors’ attention and to the public’s attention,” he said. “I think this is a very, very good recognition of one of our deputies. I want to publicly commend Robyn Hoppman.”