Zoning Ordinance undesirable
By Jim and Peg Stephens
[Copy of a letter to Ron Bennett, Chairman, Washington County Board of Supervisors]
February 7, 2013
Thank you for the opportunity to candidly address The Board. We do not feel that the full voice and true will of this county’s voters and taxpayers has been actively sought by the Board of Supervisors for all too many years. Please express our appreciation to your fellow Supervisors for their open and accessible style of conducting the County’s business.
We both actively oppose a county zoning ordinance, for the following reasons:
• A County Zoning Ordinance is the latest example of government intrusion on, and destruction of, individual rights and freedoms. Lest this sound like a platitude, 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. Some of us hold this to be a basic and, we thought, enduring American right. One should not be forced to sell only to farmers because the land in question may be zoned for agricultural use only.
• A county zoning ordinance is the latest example of the unnecessary spending of taxpayer money for services that are not needed nor wanted by most taxpayers. This is precisely how government budgets become forever bloated and burdensome. When some of us objected to adding the estimated costs of $75,000 to $100,000 to pay for county zoning, the response was, in effect, “Oh, that’s not an increase in the budget. It will be paid for by licenses and fees.” If such odious expenses aren’t taxes, then I guess we live in a largely tax-free republic.
• A county zoning ordinance is the perfect solution for a problem that does not exist. After studying the 90-plus page zoning draft at length, we could detect few, if any problems not already covered by existing county codes, rules, regulations, etc. If a problem should arise that really and truly requires further regulation, the Board of Supervisors can find a section of existing county code in which to insert such a regulation, and enforce it using existing assets. People who move to rural areas from the city tend to build homes along highways. If one has seen the value of his or her land rise because of a highway location, that sale should not be directed by county law to a person who has elected to be in a particular business category such as farming. We don’t see people flocking to gravel road locations, except perhaps in the vicinity of Iowa City. If there is a problem of residents originally from Johnson County building on “our” gravel roads, they will be paying considerable tax-based upkeep for use of roads and other public facilities. Branches of County government such as the County Engineer’s Department should operate as they are directed by the taxpayer-elected Board of Supervisors — not vice versa, as some of us believe has been the case too much of the time.
• As far as preserving and protecting rural land use so that our farmers can “feed the world,” as the newspeak goes — please spare us such Farm Bureau propaganda. Let’s allow the free market — advocated (at least in their hearts) by most food and fiber producers — to decide how any and all types of land should be used. Farming is a high-risk, high-reward vocation chosen by those who pursue it. It has always been — and will always be — a cyclical business. If today’s unbelievably high land values, more than generous prices for most ag commodities, and taxpayer-sourced subsidies don’t leave farmers in the black, then tilting Washington County Government to reflect state and national Farm Bureau talking points along with 100-page canned zoning formats can’t and won’t help much. So … if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
In summary, we believe a countywide zoning ordinance is deemed not necessary nor desirable by a strong majority of Washington County voters and taxpayers. Please take whatever steps you and the Board of Supervisors can — as quickly as you can — to rescind countywide zoning.