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The public speaks on rezoning, road vacation

The Supervisors’ Chambers filled almost to capacity not once, but twice, last Monday (July 10) as county residents commented on a zoning request and the vacation of a road in Littleton.

Rick See of Hazleton had requested rezoning of approximately .5 of an acre for the operation of an automobile body shop and restoration business. Neighbors, both for and against, addressed county supervisors offering their comments, as well as concerns.

Rosemary Boland, a neighbor across the street from the Sees, began the hearing by saying, “Isn’t a rezoning for industrial heavier zoning? It’s been a sore spot since it was zoned from agricultural to commercial.”

Rick’s wife Rhonda said, “A neighbor told me that all we were going to do was to put junk cars on the property. That’s not true. We have classic cars — cars that we own and intend to fix up. They are worth money.”

Ed Fitzgerald responded to Boland’s comments by saying, “The industrial zoning was the best category of rezoning that his business fits into.”

Rick said, “I also feel that industrial is heavy for what I will be doing — a body and paint shop. But I do work on old cars, as well. I think that the rezoning could be to commercial.”

Fitzgerald said, “What we are talking about is interpretation. Rebuilding has always been rezoned industrial. Based on my interpretation, if it was zoned commercial, Mr. See could not do what he wants to do on the site.”

Myron Lohman added, “I’ve lived there for 34 years. We don’t have any problem with it. Antique cars would be an asset to the park. I’m not worried as long as the area is maintained.”

Boland said, “My main objection is with the industrial rezoning.”

Pat Fencl said, “I’m a conservation board member. What if he puts all this stuff outside? If he puts 10 classic cars out there, what can we do about that? We just put in a new trail out there, do we want something like that so close to the trail? What happens down the road?”

Supervisor Ellen Gaffney addressed Rick See, “We zoned that residential in good faith. You have taken care of the area and you should be commended. But we have had to have Ed visit you and even take you to court in the past.”

Conservation director Dan Cohen said, “My main concern is that whoever it — what happens if the Sees sell the property in the future? What happens?”

Jim Michels commented, “We went through this before with neighbors of the Sees, who are not living up to their rezoning.”

Gaffney stated that she was apprehensive to rezone when the Sees have not complied in the past. Supervisor Ralph Kremer added that he had calls from neighbors complaining about the cars on the property. Currently, the law states that the county can limit the number of unlicensed vehicles, but cannot limit the number of licensed, operable vehicles or the number of “legally stored” vehicles (those vehicles in which the licenses have been turned into the county treasurer).

Rick See said, “I feel like I’m being stereotyped — like all the guys with ‘junk’ cars. I can’t afford to make daily trips to dispose of the scrap metal; I have to store it.”

Gaffney said, “It’s rather a difficult decision to make. We have a great concern — the Fontana entrance is very close to the area of rezoning.” Kremer added, “I think that we would need to have all vehicles inside a building.” Supervisor chairperson Dewey Donnelly asked, “Would you agree to that?”

“I can’t sign that,” Rick See said. “Are you talking about the rezoned property or the entire area (the entire area consists of approximately two and a half acres)? I’d agree to two vehicles.” Kremer said, “I’d like to see the entire area cleaned up.”

Gaffney said, “I’ll agree to rezone with the condition that a building is put up with no more than two inoperable cars outside at any time, on the entire property, not in storage, and not licensed.”

Following further discussion, the supervisors agreed to hold a public hearing on July 24 at 9 a.m. to allow for consultation with the county attorney.

The second time, the boardroom filled with residents of Littleton concerning the vacation of a road in the unincorporated town. The road in question is a one-block section of Main Street, from State Street to Franklin Street. According to county engineer Brian Keierleber, the county is trying to get all the roads in Littleton in compliance with a county code regarding the removal of obstructions. The code states that all obstructions on the road right-of-way must be removed. For many Littleton residents, that would mean the loss of front yard areas and the need to move LP gas tanks to new locations, as well as the loss of several trees.

“Those trees shouldn’t be a problem,” Nyle McMartin said. Gaffney responded, “Those trees are in the right-of-way.”

One resident suggested downsizing the road from a Class A to a Class B service road.

Supervisors set Monday, July 31 at 11 a.m. for a public hearing on making the road a Class B service road. Keierleber explained that Class B roads are maintained only once or twice per year, and that there is no snow removal.

Buchanan County Supervisors also took the following action:

  • Approved the following county officers’ reports: clerk of court ($1,501), recorder ($12,016), sheriff ($12,829), auditor ($145,317, which includes $96,000 for child support recovery).

  • Approved the following for fireworks permit for Cindy Smith of rural Jesup for July 22.

  • A public hearing on a road vacation in Section 7 of Liberty Township resulted in vacating the road, but county agreed to rock the road once before vacating. The road will go back to the landowner, John Kerkove.

  • Heard a rezoning request from Robert Schremser in Section 28 of Sumner Township to utilize two existing buildings for a welding business. And????

  • Discussed the Emergency Operations Center reorganization. Gaffney addressed Independence Mayor Frank Brimmer and city manager Alan Johnson by saying, “We will have a proposal for you to take back to the city council.”

    Johnson then said, “Mr. Chairman, when you have a proposal ready, can you please give us a copy before the meeting so that we can give it to our law enforcement committee?” Supervisors agreed.

    Basically, the proposal lists total expenditures of $335,954.74 (wages and benefits, $278,368.74; operations, $57,586); revenues (from proposed FY07 budget): Independence Light & Power ($6,336), copies ($125), alarm systems (Diebold, $396; JDCCU, $132; Freeman Alarm, $5,544); Fairbank ($6,992), Jesup ($18,287) Independence ($93,033) with each if the three cities paying one half of last year’s expense.

    In addition, if the proposal is agreed upon, the county would generate revenue from monthly rent of space to the City of Independence (1,032 square feet @ $1.75 which includes rent, utilities, maintenance, and evidence storage ($21,672) for a total of $152, 517. Grand total of net expenditures is estimated at $183,437.74.

    The 2005 countywide valuation is $722,155,251, with a tax rate of 0.25401, which is an estimate of the amount taxes would need to be raised to generate the balance. Gaffney said, “Taxpayers need to know that taxes may not be raised that much, if at all, if expenses are down elsewhere.”

    The 2004 countywide valuation was $645,005,932 at a tax rate of 0.11937.

  • Approved contracts for a bridge (113 feet long) at 150th Street and Grant Avenue with Taylor Construction. Cost of the project is $257,805, with 80 percent of the cost being paid with federal funds.

  • Met with community services director Julie Berner to discuss the monthly report, discuss guardian position and mental health-developmental disability rates.

    Highlights of the monthly report include: 135 total case management cases were served (106 adults and 29 children), a total of one case management discharge, total of 14 county social work contracts; one person was assisted with rent, three with utilities; 26 trips were made to Iowa City for 18 veterans, one assisted with rent, one with utilities, and Circle Grove Cemetery received $68 for 17 graves.

    Supervisors will next meet on Monday, July 17 at 8:30 a.m.

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