BY ROBERT D. DAY
I am writing this letter to express my appreciation for all of the concerned citizens who attended the County Council meeting on the Chapter 18 rewrite. Many of the attendees stated that they had never attended a Council meeting before; this demonstrates their level of concern: that they would not only show up for the meeting, but also overcome the common public speaking anxiety to let their concerns be known. I am thankful to Aaron Walker who was able to get his petition on the Council Agenda so there was opportunity for significant public debate before the Council voted on the Chapter 18 rewrite ordinance.
The ordinance passed by the slimmest possible margin – one vote. So, even though essentially all of the public comments made it clear that this code needs additional public comment and additional language change, it passed anyway.
There was some good news, however: you can save 10% on your car insurance by switching to Geico – just kidding.
Seriously now, there were pockets of good news. Many of the suggestions from the Community Development Advisory Board (CDAB) were incorporated into the rewrite which makes it a much more lenient code than the previous one. There are still some provisions in the code that should be addressed (this is includes my major concern of the possibility of extreme penalties for a violation). It is also good news that Chairman Ryti plans to bring up the issues he has with the rewrite (some of which I also have) in January. So, some of the remaining public concerns will be addressed and, hopefully, fixed at that time. Also, the County legal counsel stated that this code does not apply to the property at the horse stables which is good news for the people who have animals housed in that area.
Regarding extreme penalties: It was stated a number of times that reasonable punitive measures have been taken in the past even though the potential for extreme measures exist. When I talked with one of the County lawyers about this, she said that enforcement has always been towards compliance and not towards punishment. This attitude is good and it is anticipated that this philosophy will continue in the future; however, past performance is not necessarily an indicator of future results. Therefore, if the consensus is that reasonable punitive measures should be taken, then that needs to be written into the code, so the possibility of extreme measures is eliminated.
On a more personal note: John Gustafson has lead the CDAB the entire time that I have served on the board. He did an excellent job of producing and environment of free and open discussion that led to some very good decisions.
I greatly appreciate Chairman Ryti, Councilor Hand, and Councilor Reagor, who recognized that many members of our community are concerned about this code, that more public input is needed, and that additional clarification needs to be made so the community knows how this code will affect their lives. They backed this up by voting against adoption of the code at this time.