March 19 meeting will address measure
By Kay Johnson
It begins with a list of 13 reasons explaining the purpose behind zoning, including lessening congestion in the streets, promoting safety from fire, panic and other dangers and preventing overcrowding of land. It ends with example copies of Terry’s proposed zoning permit, notice of appeal and application for amendment to zoning ordinance.
The 50-plus-page zoning ordinance draft for Terry has been completed and is now up for public comment. A March 19, 7 p.m. meeting at Terry Town Hall has been scheduled allowing Terry residents and business owners an opportunity to comment on the proposal.
The earliest the proposed zoning ordinance can be adopted is June — that’s with no revision hang-ups. Barring any changes made to the current draft, the Town Council could conduct a first reading of the proposed zoning ordinance draft in April, a second reading would be conducted in May, and after 30 days from the second reading the measure would become effective, according to Town Clerk Lynn Strasheim.
“It won’t be adopted that evening,” explained Elden Netzer, referring to the March 19 public hearing.
As a former town councilman who has served on the three-member Zoning Commission since it’s inception in 2011, Netzer sees adopting the zoning ordinance as a protective measure for Terry.
“If we do get an influx of people, we’re going to have to control it in some way,” Netzer said. Noting Terry’s prime positioning with the railroad, state highway 253 and neighboring Interstate 94, Netzer sees Terry’s potential for growth as a viable possibility.
“We don’t want to stop growth. We just want it in an orderly fashion,” he added.
Fellow Zoning Commission member Heather Carter agreed. “If not zoned there’s a chance of losing Terry’s small little quaint way.”
It isn’t about which trees can be planted in yards or what colors can be painted on the outside of homes, Netzer said. Instead it ensures that homes and garages won’t be built in the right-of-ways of alleys, prevents companies from developing industrial-like businesses on empty lots located in Terry’s residential area and addresses concerns of junk vehicle collections littering Terry’s neighborhoods.
But as a self-proclaimed “point man” of opposing zoning in Terry, Bob van der Valk says several people have asked him to challenge the proposed zoning measure.
“They are afraid to speak up,” van der Valk said.
He calls the zoning ordinance a plain and simple power-grab by a few intended “to keep the town from changing.”
He recalled recent instances where newcomers were told their horses and chickens were not allowed in Terry.
“We’ve chased away three different families for ordinances that didn’t exist,” van der Valk said of the actions of current local leadership. “That’s not welcoming people. That’s just wrong.”
Pointing to Terry’s steady population decrease in the past several decades, van der Valk questions the need for zoning in Terry.
“We’re going backwards,” he said. “We’re not Forsyth; we’re not booming.”
van der Valk, who is a newcomer to Terry after moving here in 2009, points to one portion of the zoning ordinance draft that he calls draconian in nature.
It reads: “1. Violation of the provisions of this title or failure to comply with any of its requirements, including violations of conditions and safeguards established in connection with the grant of variances or conditional uses or any of the requirements for conditions imposed by the city council, shall constitute a misdemeanor.
Any person who violates this title or fails to comply with any of its requirements shall upon conviction thereof be fined not more than five hundred dollars ($500.00) for each offense or imprisoned not more than six (6) months, or both, and in addition shall pay all costs and expenses involved in the case. Each day such violation continues shall be considered a separate offense and be punishable as such.”
“Our property rights are being taken away,” van der Valk said.
Town councilman Clinton Rakes disagrees. The zoning draft isn’t intended to take away property rights but ensure all property owners’ rights are respected.
“Your neighbor has rights too,” Rakes said.
The zoning ordinance draft also states its purpose is to: Protect and maintain property values, preserve and develop the economic base of the community and encourage provision of affordable housing for families of all income levels.
The draft explains the process of obtaining a zoning permit from a zoning officer before any building or structure may be erected, placed, moved, expanded or structurally altered. A zoning map, outlining residential from business areas, among other areas is also included. Definitions of words are provided, including: adult bookstore, animal shelter, automobile wrecking, bed and breakfast, boarding house, building, home occupation, livestock, lot, corner, lot lines and modular home, among others.
The duties of a zoning officer and zoning commission are outlined. Reviewing and issuing a zoning permit is explained. Conditional use requirements are listed, as well as procedures for variance requests and requirements for governing granting of variances. A fee summary for zoning permit, conditional use permit, change of zone and variance are listed. The process of explaining how to file a complaint and the penalties of such complaints are outlined.
The zoning ordinance draft is available online at www.townofterry.com
. Copies of the zoning draft can be viewed and picked up at Terry Town Hall and the Prairie County Library. A nominal fee may be required.
Published March 13, 2013