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Sumner residents discuss moratorium, proposed subdivision


Fri, Dec 20th, 2002
Posted in Features

The Sumner Township Board met Monday, December 16, to reconvene their meeting of November 25 which ended in a recess, so that the board could discuss the legal and financial implications of a possible zoning moratorium with legal council.Many Sumner residents are concerned about a proposed subdivision that would be built in the Washington area of the township. The subdivision would be located within 400 feet of a feedlot owned by Randy Ness, which has prompted the developer, Bruce Bucknell, to ask the Fillmore County Board of Adjustment for a variance.More than 50 Sumner residents were in attendance for Monday’s meeting when Supervisor Dale Greene called the meeting to order. Because there was some criticism as to how the meeting of November 25 was conducted, Greene asked those in attendance who wanted to speak to limit their comments to two minutes so that everyone would have a chance to be heard.Supervisors Matt Snyder and Keith Culver both commented on discussions each of them had with different attorneys. Due to the Open Meeting Law, the two of them could not meet together with just one attorney. Snyder said he was told that “moratoriums work well if handled properly” but feared that creating a township zoning ordinance could lead to increased costs. “I would expect the levy to go up as a result,” Snyder said. Culver said that moratoriums shouldn’t be used to stop one developer, otherwise the township could face litigation. Culver also said that if the township develops its own zoning ordinance, it has to be more restrictive than the county’s.Some residents spoke for development, while others talked about the impact development would have on farming. Others commented specifically about the proposed subdivision, while some called for a moratorium on development so as to allow the township the time to discuss what direction it would like to go in the future. Nearly 20 different individuals expressed opinions during the meeting.Stafford Hanson, a former school board member, talked about the need to get more people to live in the township. Hanson was critical of the new Fillmore County Zoning Ordinance which he believed didn’t go far enough. “We need people to build homes here,” he said. “We need children in our schools.”Tim Johnson said that his biggest concern about the Bucknell subdivision was water quality. “You’re going to have 15 septic systems in a fragile area. Water quality should be a concern of the township,” Johnson said.Mike Deguis, who conducted an informal survey of 80 households, said that 69 of the 80 households he talked to supported a moratorium.“We need to assess what direction we are going in,” Deguis said. “A moratorium does not change the law. It gives us time to talk.”Marianne Hockema agreed. “What’s the harm in studying this?” she asked.Attorney David Joerg of Preston, representing Randy Ness at the meeting, clarified some issues about moratoriums, saying that the cost is relatively inexpensive; in the neighborhood of $300 - $500. “A moratorium gives township board’s the time to study the situation for a limited period, usually a year or less,” Joerg said, clarifying that a moratorium ordinance is broad in scope. Joerg presented an example of how Forestville Township recently implemented a moratorium ordinance. When asked, “What do you propose to do to study this problem?”, the supervisors answered differently. Matt Snyder said that he is of two minds. Firstly, he would like to consider a moratorium so that we can discuss where the township wants to go. But he also would like to see what the county’s going to do with the subdivision.“If they are going to go ahead and grant a 400 foot variance - that’s 40%. My question would be why does the county even have regulations?” Snyder stated.Keith Culver encouraged the Sumner residents to talk to their county commissioner and others who make policy. “Make your voices heard,” Culver encouraged. “Be there on Thursday night (variance hearing).”All of the township supervisors spoke of their frustration with the recent process that led to the revised county zoning ordinance, where development maps were colored in and largely ignored by the Planning Commission. The county has yet to fully address the issue of subdivisions, a fact not lost on those at Monday’s meeting.In the end, the township board adjourned without making any decision on whether to proceed with a moratorium ordinance, preferring, for the time being anyway, to see what the county will do with Bruce Bucknell’s subdivision variance request. The Sumner Township board meets again on December 23.

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