Monday, November 19, 2007

What exactly were their intentions when they implemented zoning in the first place?

Written and submitted by Rod and Pat Bittel, longtime residents of Ellis County:

When our kids were small and we would ask them why they liked something, typically they would say, "Because it's fun." We can now say for at least two of the three county commissioners (the two that voted in favor of zoning) zoning isn't fun anymore. If you have been following the stories published recently in the HDN covering the county commission meetings, it seems that zoning has become a millstone around the necks of county commissioners Vernon Berens and Dennis Pfannenstiel.

Maybe we need to ask what made zoning so appealing to these two gentlemen in the first place. Mr. Berens and Mr. Pfannenstiel intentionally pushed to establish county-wide zoning. What was their purpose for doing this? According to Article 1-102 in our zoning regulations, the first purpose of zoning is to promote the health, safety, comfort and general welfare of the citizens of Ellis County, Kansas. Was that their intention when they voted to pass zoning?

Now the tide has turned. In the county commission meeting of November 15, 2007, Mr. Pfannenstiel said, "If we get rid of county-wide zoning and this thing moves forward (the cell tower) we'd have no problems, I'm very much in favor of just abolishing it, getting rid of it, letting them do what they want."

Mr. Berens said, "We're getting to the point where we are going to abandon county wide zoning and that's very, very, close." Why was an idea that was so good two years ago to become the scourge of the county commission chambers? What took the bloom off of zoning for the commissioners?

Perhaps one possible answer is that now there are regulations that need to be followed. A regulation is an authorized set of rules. The county commission established by law the regulations when they passed zoning. These same commissioners are now disregarding the regulations that they established. Here�s an example. In the case of the proposed cell tower near Victoria, it states clearly in Article 27.7, 32 c., of our zoning regulations that "No new commercial telecommunication tower location shall be approved unless the applicant shall show that there is not sufficient or usable space on existing or approved towers in the same service area. Such verification shall be in the form of written correspondence from the owner of such towers or structures of their unavailability."

Our third county commissioner, Perry Henman, read this regulation out loud to the other commissioners and then pointed out that there were no such letters from Nex-Tech or All-Tel, both of which have potentially available space.

How was the news of this received? Mr. Pfannenstiel moved to approve the project, "I'll make the motion because I think everything's in line." He continued, "I think it's a good thing. We need cell communication towers."

Even if it means breaking the law?

While Mr. Pfannenstiel and Mr. Berens are singing the county-wide zoning blues, Mr. Henman has a solution to their woes. The solution is to establish a comprehensive plan for Ellis County. The solution is to take our current zoning seriously to guide future development. But Mr. Pfannenstiel will have no such thing in his county stating, "A comprehensive plan would say we do nothing in Ellis County."

When we first started paying attention to the actions of the Ellis County Commission, we found some of their reasoning to be like that of a grandpa, inattentive but who meaning no harm. "Now Dad, you forgot to use your blinker. Be careful!" Now their actions seem to be entering into the intentionally harmful stage. "Dad, you are heading straight down a ravine. Stop!!"

We've stopped having fun.

Submitted by:
Rod & Pat Bittel
1101 Noose Road
Hays, Kansas

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