Saturday, November 17, 2007

Why not Nuclear Waste Storage in Ellis County?

(submitted to Hays Daily News, Nov. 17)

In last Mondays' Commission meeting, Commissioner Perry Henman pointed out many serious problems associated with the application for a conditional use permit for a cell phone tower in Victoria: The irregularity of seeking to permit "a parcel within a parcel" instead of the entire property, the potential for violation of zoning rules regarding proximity of towers to property lines, the public safety risk of a tower collapse across Hwy 40, and the lack of evidence, required by law, that existing towers cannot be used.

However, none of these issues were a problem for Commissioner Pfannenstiel who judged that "everything is in line". His position? If all projects are opposed, Ellis County will not progress. The question is - progress how? With Berens and Pfannenstiel in charge, we might expect even a nuclear waste storage facility would be welcome in Ellis County - provided it yielded a good profit for the right people it could well fall under their current definition of progress.

Perhaps Mr. Pfannenstiel should consider the possibility that truly beneficial projects are typically welcomed in a community without creating social divisions and family feuds. Perhaps it is only those projects with significant negative impacts, and those implemented through unscrupulous tactics, that are likely to be opposed vociferously by local residents. Have you forgotten them Mr. Pfannenstiel? These are the people who will have to live with your "progress."

Commissioners Berens and Pfannenstiel seem unwilling to challenge any zoning recommendations, no matter how flawed. They would rather hide behind bad recommendations and use them as justifications for arbitrary decisions they wish to make that are not in the public's best interest. No wonder they oppose a comprehensive zoning plan for the county - they have discovered the conditional use permit to be a convenient mechanism than can be bent to suit their every whim.

Mr. Berens stated that if we have a zoning board then "we need to have faith in those people." No, Mr. Berens we are under no such obligation, and neither are you. The recommendations of the zoning board should be considered, but there were also dissenting votes. However, these are just a handful of appointed people, many with their own private agendas, whereas you were elected to use YOUR judgment to ensure the best interests of Ellis County are served. That means subjecting those recommendations to rigorous scrutiny - just like Commissioner Henman. If you take recommendation at face value, despite obvious irregularities, you become delinquent in the execution of your duties.

Mr. Pfannenstiel has repeatedly threatened to abolish zoning in order to railroad his favored projects over public resistance. So Mr. Pfannenstiel, you zoned the county for wind energy (against overwhelming public opposition) but now, since zoning isn't working to suit your interests, you want to revoke it in order to deny people the legal protection it provides them - just when they need it most? You seem to want to change the rules of the game every time you don't get your way. Maybe its time for you to just pick up your toys and leave the playground.

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