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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Winfred Woes: Edicks See Unfair Zoning Rules Against Scholl

Maybe Winfred needs its own blog... Winfred Waler? Winfred Whopper?

First Republican candidate for District 8 House Patricia Stricherz, who now calls Winfred home, fires her missive missile at Independent opponent Jason Bjorklund. (It still sounds weird to say opponent there, since Stricherz and Bjorklund are logical allies in the battle to unseat incumbents Mitch Fargen and Gerry Lange. But unless there's some serious kiss-and-make-up in the coming weeks, Stricherz, at least, appears to see the race in those terms.)

Now another Winfred denizen, Ken Emick, has some grumbling to air. His wife Sue brings me a hand-written letter to the editor which they said the Madison Daily Leader would not print. The Emicks are unhappy with the treatment their friend and neighbor Charles Scholl has received in his dealings with the Lake County Commission. (For some background, see these MDL articles on Scholl's permit requests, nuisance complaints, and county acquisition and auction of his Winfred property.)

In his letter, Ken Edick says some negative things concerning people I like and trust—States Attorney Ken Meyer, zoning officer Deb Reinicke, and local salvage and gravel guru Lee Yager (heck, I just bought a good load of gravel from Lee and his son Rick to fix my rain-rutted driveway). I don't agree with everything Edick says, and I'm editing out a few words, since some of Edick's complaints are more personal gripes than direct critique of local government.

But Edick is a citizen, and he has some questions about the fairness with which our local government applies its laws. The Edicks also don't have Internet at home (what? you mean the rest of the world doesn't revolve around the Web the way it does here at Madville Times world headquarters? inconceivable!), so it can't hurt to extend the convenience of instant and interactive global griping to some non-digitized Lake County neighbors.

Here for your consideration and comment is what Edick has to say, followed by some Madville commentary:

First of all I would like to thank Paul Nordaune for his letter of support to the editor of the local paper for Charles Scholl. I know there are many others who support him out there who need to come forward. I totally agree with him that we need to elect new people for our County Commissioners' board and States Attorney's Office.

I would never have voted for Ken Meyer for States Attorney if I had known what he was like. He and others in Winfred ran Charles out of town. Then those people benefited by getting his land cheap when the county auctioned it off. The County Commissioners said it cost in excess of $100,000 to clean the land up. So why would they sell the land so cheap? We taxpayers paid to have the land leveled and new dirt hauled in and put down that Charles Scholl would have done at no cost. So the taxpayers get cheated again and the ones with the money are laughing all the way to the bank. Now Ken Meyer is trying to stop Charles from running his business elsewhere. He should not be allowed to be involved in the meetings with the board of Commissioners and Charles Scholl for his permits. Does Ken Meyer control the County Commissioners and why is he rewriting the zoning rules? Has the county given him that much power?

Is it proper for the zoning officer, Deb Reinicke, to refuse to even give Charles Scholl an application for a permit to operate a repair shop without restrictions as are being issued for others? I've heard rumours that Deb was assuring them that they would not be required to comply with the same restrictions placed on Charles Scholl and that they would just be given a permit. She told them the restrictions will only be enforced on Scholl. Evidently this is true given the fact that she ignored the violations I complained about Yager's junkyard (The Can Pit). She ignored the violations and gave Yager a permit without restrictions. Yager's Junkyard (The Can Pit) is prohibited use of that building on that site. The Can Pit per zoning rule definition section 2-39 is larger than 1000 square feet and is being used to buy, sell, and store scrap metals. Further this junkyard does not meet the 200' setback from the road right-of-way for storage of salvage and etc.

I live in Winfred, just up the road from a large open pit sewer. I believe that the awful stench from this sewer pit combined with the potential for small children or pets falling into it creates a public health and safety hazard as set out in state and county nuisance laws. I have filed complaints with the county board and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources with no response. Is this something that Ken Meyer has used his position to block or cover up?

...Greg Pulford has his own junkyard in the country and it's not fenced in. It is well weeded up and clearly visible from the road.

Ken Edick
Winfred, SD

Neighbors, your observations on Edick's letter and the matter of fair enforcement of zoning in Lake County are welcome. I feel compelled to weigh on a couple issues myself.

I am always sympathetic to calls for fair enforcement of the law. However, I have difficulty accepting accusations of unfairness from States Attorney Ken Meyer. He may be the straightest-shooting lawyer I know. The suggestion that he should not be involved in county commission zoning deliberations is, to put it gently, unworkable. Meyer earns his pay by providing legal expertise to our part-time commissioners. If I were on the commission, I'd certainly want Meyer at every meeting helping me understand what local and state law requires and allows.

I also visited with our zoning officer Deb Reinicke before publishing this letter. She flatly contradicts the claims of this letter. She says Mr. Scholl delayed even coming to her office to pick up the permit, and that when Scholl complained to her, she told him the application was waiting for him right on her desk. The zoning officer has no authority to deny anyone a permit application. She exercises no decision-making power over permits: she only processes the paperwork and transmits it to the county commission, which has the final say.

And of course, I have little truck with arguments that begin with, "I've heard rumors that...." I could throw that introductory phrase at the beginning of any number of political statements that I want to believe and persuade others of, but that wouldn't make them any more true. If you've got sources for the claim of favoritism, say so. If you have other people who will come forward and say, "Yup, that's what happened to me," then bring them on. If the county is doing anything wrong, people should step forward and say so, not whisper that other unnamed people are saying so.

I take no position on the nature of the permits received by Lee Yager, Greg Pulford, or any other businessmen in the county. I am all for landowners being able to use their land as they see fit, within the limits of reasonable regulations and public safety. Edick's letter shows there is at least a perception that the county is enforcing those limits with less than an even hand. And our candidates (there is no election for states attorney this year, but we do have four people vying for two county commission seats) should be aware that the Edicks' perception is shared with significant fervor by at least a few voters in Winfred and around Madison. Those who share that perception would do well to approach our county commission candidates and ask them what they know and where they stand on zoning and enforcement.

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