Stoops, Brock face off over committee
Washington County Supervisor Stan Stoops wants the board of supervisors to appoint a committee to study a stand-alone reverse setback ordinance. He spoke about this committee for the second board meeting this month.
However, County Attorney Larry Brock said during the March 19 board meeting that the supervisors do not have the authority to appoint a study committee because it has a board-appointed Planning and Zoning Commission. County zoning administrator Steve Lafaurie agreed with Brock’s assessment.
Brock also said that if the board rescinds zoning, “You cannot do anything with regard to zoning regulations. You could not do a reverse setback stand-alone ordinance because that is a zoning regulation.”
Stoops said that many county residents have spoken to the supervisors about needing a reverse setback to separate new homes or buildings from existing livestock farming operations
On March 12, Stoops asked Brock what Stoops needs to do in order to rescind the zoning ordinance. At that time, Brock said that the supervisors need to ask the Planning and Zoning Commission to issue a report about the effects of rescinding the zoning ordinance. At that time, Brock did not offer an opinion on the formation of a study committee.
Brock spoke in more detail about the study committee on March 19. He said a stand-alone reverse setback ordinance would be considered a zoning ordinance. He said that according to the Code of Iowa, Chapter 335, a stand-alone reverse setback ordinance would have to go through the Planning and Zoning Commission.
“The purpose of this committee is to review the reverse setback,” Stoops said March 19.
Stoops also said that the study committee would not take a vote on the issue.
“They are making a study on it and that’s it,” Stoops said.
Zoning administrator Steve Lafaurie agreed with Brock.
“I believe it’s the role of the Planning and Zoning Commission as your appointed body to develop ordinances which are related to controlling the placement of any buildings or structures,” Lafaurie said March 19. “These setbacks are regulated by a zoning ordinance in Iowa. The responsibility for overseeing the preparation of these sorts of ordinances falls to the commission under Iowa Code section 335.8.”
He also reminded the supervisors that they had given the commission the task of preparing a report on the effects of repealing the zoning ordinance.
“Wouldn’t it be prudent to wait for that report before taking action to develop other related ordinances?” Lafaurie asked.
“They’re going to be biased,” Stoops said.
As the discussion ensued, Stoops also said that the commission might need more time to make recommendations on the reverse setback.
Supervisor Steve Davis suggested that the as yet unnamed committee members attend the Planning and Zoning Commission meetings and talk about the reverse setback during the commission’s public comment portion of the meeting.
Brock said that the Planning and Zoning Commission is subject to the open meetings law and that all residents are welcome to attend the meetings. The next scheduled meeting is to begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 2, in the Board of Supervisors’ Room at the county courthouse.
Brock also told Stoops that only the five supervisors know the names on Stoops’ list of possible committee members.
“These are people you’ve picked with no input whatsoever from the public, no input whatsoever from anybody who may be interested in being on this committee,” Brock said. “What it looks like is you’ve stacked this committee to do what you want them to do. There’s been no public accountability. There’s been no open meeting, there been no sunshine on this committee.”
Stoops said, “That’s fine. Next week when the members are brought forth, it will seem like it’s not stacked. That will become evident. I’m not worried about that. I want good conscientious people on the committee.”
As the discussion drew to a close, Supervisor Bob Yoder asked Brock if he will provide legal representation to the committee should it be appointed.
“I guess, if they have legal issues, they can come to me,” he said.