Citizens committee seeks county input on zoning, planning issues

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“We in America do not have a government by the majority. We have a government of the majority who participate.”

- Thomas Jefferson

The members of the Citizens Advisory Committee have been meeting twice a month, and meetings have been held at the office of Evelina Brown across from the courthouse and at the Town Water Building. On the first and third Tuesdays of the month at 6 p.m.

All citizens of Switzerland County are welcome to join in.

To this point, as a group, we have been educating ourselves about the zoning and planning issues in general and the 1996 Zoning Code, which is now in effect. Our aim has been to see in what ways the present code may be deficient, or in need of updating, or emendation.

We have been looking specifically into the issues which have caused the most concern and controversy for the citizens of Switzerland County, as well as for the individuals elected and/or appointed to represent citizens of the county.

In general we are seeking a balance between the rights and responsibilities of private citizens and those of the public.

The issues which we’ve been looking into include, but are not limited to:

– The Area Comprehensive Plan and how it should reflect the way in which Switzerland County would like the county to develop as more people and businesses come across the Markland Bridge etc.

– Enforcement: What is the most fair and equitable way to enforce county codes? What exactly is “junk” and; safety issues aside, when if ever does it become an issue for neighbors and/or the public?

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A website to discuss the issues and keep the public aware of meetings etc. has been set up. That website is: www.switzcoplan.wordpress.com.

Many of these issues will require the input of as many citizens as possible. Changes to the 1996 code can be made as amendments.

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One proposed change is an “Agriculture Use Covenant”, which follows here. The Citizens Advisory Committee is looking for public feedback on this proposal.

Here is a first draft:

It is the intent of the Area Plan Commission that individual farmers be allowed to perform any and all activities necessary to support the operations of their farms without unnecessary and burdensome regulations. Therefore, any development which is proposed within or adjacent to an Agricultural district or FR district is expected to acknowledge and accept the character of the nearby agricultural operation and its accompanying activities without claim of nuisance.

Changes in zoning in A and FR districts carry an implied covenant that the property is in a predominantly agricultural area and all farming operations may continue to be practiced in the district. The new owner (on behalf of himself and any future owners and occupants of the property) waives any right, to bring claim against any farmer or agricultural producer for the practice of any reasonable or necessary farming or livestock activity, including existing uses or new practices. ( Establishment of a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) where none existed before is not an acceptable new practice under this clause.)

Please direct any comments or input on this proposed change to the website listed above; write a letter to the editor here in the paper; or come to the next meeting of the Citizens Advisory Committee; which will be on Tuesday, April 5th, at the law office of Evelina Brown on Main Street across from the courthouse.

The meeting will begin at 6 p.m., and everyone is invited to attend.

- Herschel Brichto