Trouble with a CAPITAL T — by Todd Macfarlane

Jim Donna Dyer

Several times lately, I have heard County Commission Candidate, Jim Dyer, talk about the concept of summary abatement in the context of application of the new county land-use ordinances.  Although Mr. Dyer’s warnings and concerns have been discounted and brushed-off by the Millard County Commissioners and land-use officials, I just want to say that the issues and cautions he has raised in this regard are real.  On that score, I’d like to relate a little story.

The Story of the Troublesome Dairy with the Troublesome Fodder Barn

I have friends in Emery County who own and operate a small dairy farm.  Their niche is grass-fed raw milk, which they sell for a premium on the Wasatch Front, and at a more reasonable price to locals on the farm.

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Because they prefer to feed green grass year-round, they have what is known as a fodder system.  They started out with a portable fodder system, and then started building a bigger, more permanent climate-controlled barn to grow fodder in year-round.

In the summer of 2012, I was working with my friends to help them expand  their dairy operation. My dairy farmer friend is a former building contractor, and is used to doing everything according to Hoyle, so they applied for a building permit, and were jumping through every possible hoop.  The barn construction project had progressed to the point that they requested an inspection of the rough plumbing and rebar so that they could pour the concrete floor.  The contracted building inspector (who happens to be from Millard County) came out and did the inspection.  Everything was fine, and the inspector signed off on it.  They ordered concrete for bright and early the next morning.

Summary Abatement

That morning I milked the cows so that my friend and his brother could pour the concrete and finish the floor.  Milking cows is better than finishing concrete any day!  I was about half done milking when my friend’s wife came and got me, and said there was a problem and they needed my help.  I asked what was going on.  She said “You’ll see.”

When I got out to the new barn site, in addition to the concrete truck and driver, there was a shiney car and an unfamiliar face.  Another building inspector (who also happened to be from Millard County) had shown up.  Despite the fact that they were right in the middle of a concrete pour, he had promptly announced “I’m shutting you down.”  When my friend asked why, the inspector said that he had reviewed the inspection from the previous day and noticed that they had made a minor change to their plans without telling the county planning commission, and although it had all passed inspection and everything was legal and according to code, they couldn’t proceed until they got on the agenda and came back to talk to the planning commission, and everything was okay’d.  My friend tried to talk to him for a few minutes, and then said “look, as much fun as this has been, I’m right in the middle of a concrete pour, so if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to finish this pour.” It was the middle of July, and the concrete was not going to wait.  He also asked his wife if she would go get me, and ask me to come help deal with the building inspector.

I am not going to share the details of our conversation, but about an hour later I was able to go finish milking the cows, and the building inspector left and never came back.

Fodder Barn Ext 1

         The Completed Fodder Barn . . . and What it Produces 

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Meanwhile Back at Our Ranch

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At this point, my family and I have lived in Millard County for over 10 years.  We bought the core of our ranch property over 12 years ago. Most of our time in Millard County has been  spent on our place along Corn Creek in the very Southeast corner of the county, just outside of Kanosh.

Despite being fairly outspoken on some issues, including the Millard County Attorney’s office arrangement, and the circumstances surrounding Corey Kanosh’s death, in the 10+ years that we have owned property and lived in Millard County, until the Spring of 2014, I had had virtually no interactions with Millard County’s planning and zoning department. That has been the case for a reason.  I’ve been around the horn a time or two, and I understand what happens when you invite them into your life — it almost immediately becomes much more frustrating, complicated and expensive.  Consequently, I had never even met, spoken with, or had anything to do with Sheryl Dekker, Millard County Planning & Zoning Administrator.

Asleep at the Switch

I will have to admit, however, that I had been completely asleep at the switch when the Millard County Planning Commission and County Commission had been discussing the new land-use and zoning ordinances that they adopted at the end of 2012.  That is because I spent most of 2012 working with my friends in Emery County to expand their dairy operation, and I simply wasn’t around, or paying adequate attention.  If I had known what Millard County was up to, there is no question, I would have been there, and they would have heard plenty from me.  Instead of having all this discussion now, we would have been having it then.

In the past year, we have bought several new pieces of agricultural property.  It wasn’t until questions came up about one of those properties that I had occasion to re-check the applicable Millard County Land-use Ordinance.  That is when I learned, for the first time, about the big change.  Because I have been actively involved in agriculture, real estate and land-use, including planning and zoning, for the past 25 years, I was stunned when I read the new ordinances.  For a rural area, they are as intrusive and overreaching as anything I have ever seen, anywhere.  For several weeks or even a month after that, I just kept scratching my head, wondering what to do about it.

When faced with a somewhat similar situation here in Kanosh a few years ago, we ran a referendum, put the new land-use ordinance to a vote of the people, and ended up voting down the new ordinance by a margin of 3-1.  Unfortunately, by the time I became aware of Millard County’s new ordinance, it was too late to run a referendum on Millard County’s new monstrosity.

The Importance of Watching Public Notices.

At the recent Meet the Candidates Events, Commissioner Daron Smith asserted that because no one showed up at a recent planning commission meeting, no one cared about what they were doing or talking about. But if other people were like me, and everyone I have talked to was, they simply didn’t know about it.  If we had known, we  would have been there.  It’s hard to keep up with everything the county is up to — especially when they do only the bare legal minimum to be transparent and keep people informed.

Although, obviously, I am not as good as I should be about about watching the Public Notices, in January of this year, I did happen to catch a glimpse of a notice that the Millard County Planning Commission was holding a public hearing to discuss possible changes to the new ordinances.  Up to that point, I hadn’t expressed a word to anyone at Millard County, about my concerns.

Here Comes TROUBLE

I wanted to get a copy to see what was being proposed.  Although the notice said that copies were available in Delta, I quickly found out that copies were not available anywhere.

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Finally, on February 1st, just days before the hearing, I sent an e-mail to Sheryl Dekker, Millard County Planning & Zoning Administrator.  This is what it said:

Hello:

I understand the Millard County Planning Commission is having one or more public hearings on 2/5/2014.

I understand the public hearings involve proposed changes to the current Land Use Ordinance that was apparently adopted in 12/12, as well as the Subdivision Ordinance.

I would like to get copies of whatever is under consideration.

Are the proposed changes available in digital format?

Are hard copies available at the county seat in Fillmore, including at the courthouse? If not, why not?

Thanks.

I would like to share what I got back several days later, just before the hearing, that she forwarded to me from Bruce Parker, Millard County’s private land-use consultant:

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Please find attached proposed changes to Title 10 as requested. http://www.millardcounty.org/PC_-_CODIFICATION_CORRECTIONS_PC_Public_Hearing_02052014__Z-2014-002.pdf

Also attached is the prosed new subdivision ordinance – Title 11. http://www.millardcounty.org/MILLARD_COUNTY_-_SUBDIVISION_ORDINANCE_-_PLANNING_COMMISSION_PUBLIC_HEARING_DRAFT_-_2_5_2014.pdf
Someone picked up a copy of this draft this morning at our office in Delta.

I am now posting the changes to Title 10 on the County website: http://www.millardcounty.org/index.html as well as the State Public Notice Website: http://www.utah.gov/pmn/index.html

Sheryl L Dekker
Millard County Planner
71 South 200 West
PO Box 854
Delta, UT 84624

NOW, THIS IS THE INTERESTING PART.  PLEASE CHECK-OUT MRS. DEKKER’S EMAIL TO MR. PARKER, THAT SHE FORGOT TO DELETE, WHEN SHE FORWARDED HIS E-MAIL TO ME.

From: Sheryl Dekker [mailto:sdekker@co.millard.ut.us]
Sent: Monday, February 03, 2014 8:48 AM
To: ‘Bruce Parker’
Subject: FW: Planning Commission Public Hearings

This guy is trouble with a capital T. . . . Do you have anything on the amendment to Title 10 yet? I will respond to this this morning. Title 11 is online and I will forward him a copy by email. If he wants a printed copy he can come to Delta or print it himself. Thanks,

Sheryl L Dekker
Millard County Planner
71 South 200 West
PO Box 854
Delta, UT 84624

It sounds like my reputation precedes me.

It was after attending that meeting, and several others, that I started writing letters to the Millard County Chronicle Progress.  I haven’t been shy or bashful about how I feel about these new ordinances.  In addition to verbal comments to both the planning commission and county commission, I have also submitted extensive written comments.  Although the commissioners say that there is little interest in these issues because no one shows up or says anything, how much attention do you think they have paid to my comments?  None!  They’ve never actually read the ordinances, do you think they’ve read my comments?  If so, there is no indication of that.

At this point, all I can say, based on my 25+ years of experience and observations, is that Millard County’s new land-use ordinances are indeed TROUBLE with a CAPITAL T.

Summary abatement can take on a variety of forms, all of which allow the local governmental authority to come on your land and take some form of action, including completely shutting you down, with little or no due process whatsoever.

I said that I wasn’t going to share the details of my conversation with the building inspector that day, but I will say just this much: he made it very clear to me that he gets a kick out of doing this — shutting people down, and causing them problems.  Among other things, he bragged about all the times and ways in which he had done it.  And that is what our tax dollars are being spent to make happen.

Please don’t be naive enough to think that it doesn’t happen.  Contrary to what the commissioners who passed the law have said about it, please don’t be naive enough to think that the language doesn’t mean what it says; that it will not be enforced, and/or; that our county elected and appointed officials and the building inspectors they employ are not willing to serve a full plate of harassment, including Red Tags and Summary Abatement for breakfast — and it could be right when you’re in the middle of a concrete pour.

But when (not if, but when) it happens, please don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11 thoughts on “Trouble with a CAPITAL T — by Todd Macfarlane

  1. Great article Todd! Anybody that doesn’t see the trouble that is coming down the road from this land use ordinance is being naive and has their head in the sand. The frustrating part is that none of this is necessary had we just known about it before it was signed by those who NEVER read it and certainly didn’t understand the long term consequences of it. We have to stand up to this garbage.

    Sheryl Dekker’s comment in her email is PRICELESS! Anybody who reads that and doesn’t understand that the county thinks the “common citizens” of Millard County are idiots and “Trouble with a Capital T” is not paying attention. This county should be grateful when someone is interested in what they are doing and have an open door policy to anything and everything that is going on. Sheryl Dekker should have been booted out the door when this was sent. We need to wake up and understand what they are doing behind closed doors.

    Daron Smith’s comment to several of us at the Fillmore meeting that they “notified the public” about the meeting last week is a joke. As hot as this topic is, if they were concerned about making sure that the public knew and understood what was happening and had the opportunity to give input, they would have made sure that they notified everyone of the meeting as many ways as possible. Instead, they did the bare minimum of what was required by law – posted it on their website and on the State’s website, and put a small notice in the back of the paper. Really??? That’s the best you can do over a land ordinance that has half this county riled up? And then he had the gall to say that “obviously nobody cares about this”. Well, there are plenty of people who do care and hopefully as more information comes out we will have plenty more.

    The bottom line is this is just plain wrong! Just as wrong as our legislators in DC signing a healthcare bill that they hadn’t read and had no idea what the fallout would be until it was too late. We are all now paying that price. We shouldn’t have the same garbage happening in a rural county of Utah! Do we really want our county officials acting like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi? We need to hold all of them accountable until this is fixed!

  2. Mr. McFarland,
    I just read your article “Trouble With a Capital T”. It’s very troubling. I’ve been warning publicly that County ordinances are laws that mean exactly what they say. While some are necessary many are not and shouldn’t be subject to any single person/inspector’s change of mind after a job has begun with the inspector’s approval. Oops! Isn’t good enough to stop a previously approved project. The rights of the owner to continue after an owner is vested in a job with proper approval be clearly spelled out in the ordinance and the burden should be on the county to show by clear and convincing evidence that a danger to to the community exists on order to issue a cease and desist order.

    Jim Dyer

  3. It seems easy enough to say, “I don’t plan to build anything; why should I care?” Fair enough, but two points come to mind. First, if the county can get away with this sort of egregious overreach in its zoning and building laws, what’s to prevent it doing the same with something you do care about? Second, one major group of people that care about these laws are those who are building and enlarging businesses. If you, your kids, and your grandkids want to be able to live here and have reasonable jobs, it helps to encourage those sorts of people. These laws do exactly the opposite.

  4. Sounds like mud slinging to me. Consider the timing and year! Hmm. Coincidential? Don’t think so.

    1. “Mud slinging” generally refers to calling people names and throwing around unsubstantiated accusations. On the other hand, reviewing bits of the actual law and pointing out how it strips citizens of their freedoms is often called “paying attention”. As to the timing, given that the county leadership has repeatedly defended these unconscionable abridgments of freedom in the face of community outrage, an election year is arguably the only time citizens can do anything about the problem.

  5. from North Dakota:
    It looks as though those of us with the property financing these idiots – with their ever increasing tax demands – need to appoint one from ‘our team’ to run herd on what they are planning next! Is Agenda-21 influencing your county commissioners zoning plans? You might want to check up on that!
    Apparently, I’ve been labeled ‘militant’ for taking a vocal stand against ‘Interior Inspections’ as a required part of home assessment for tax valuation. If the majority aren’t willing to say, “NO!”, I’m afraid our voices will be unheard until it is too late.
    Labeling and isolating those with strong opposition to a hardcore agenda is part of what is called the Delphi Technique. It separates the strongly principled from those who have not yet formed an opinion. Flattery is employed on the uncertain in order to ‘bring them on board’.

    1. Thanks Donna for your input.People in Millard county are asleep when it comes to agenda 21
      even though the second largest town in the county (Fillmore) has become the poster child for Utah in how to implement agenda 21 land use ordinances and the Mayor of Fillmore is so proud of the great job he has done. In 2008 the little town I live in passed the same agenda 21 crap and we were abel to take it to referendum and the people voted it out with 93% of voter turn out the vote was 3 to 1 to have it kicked to the curb. The answer to your question is YES! Agenda 21
      is in fact the influence behind the land use ordinances in our county.

      1. OOPS I forgot to put my name on my post.
        Scott Blackburn!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
        PS Wake Up Millard County

      2. Congratulations on the success of your referendum!

        Unfortunately, the less than 4,000 people in our county are so enamored of North Dakota’s newly found wealth 200 miles NW of us, they are willing to adopt anything they imagine will give them prestige. Our nearest village is even reassessing home & lot, tax valuations in part to upgrade the tiny airport outside of town – just in case some oil company ceo’s have any reason to develop our agricultural area into ‘slash & burn’ oil production. They would need a place to land their jets! Thank heaven, it does NOT seem there is any readily accessible gas or crude on our side of the Missouri River, but I can see these county commissioners doing their ‘best’ to create some kind of exclusive theme park – at tax payer’s expense – in order to attract all that oil money from the Bakken. Ignorance rules because the rest of us are too busy actually working to keep up with it.

  6. Well said Josh. There was not a single comment in that article that could even be remotely construed as mud slinging. At least somebody cares enough to find out what the facts are. I’m not sure how anybody can defend some of the actions that were stated in the original post.

  7. We as Citizens need to say enough is enough we don’t need every single branch of the government from fed state and local telling us how to live our lives, trying to take more and more of what we earn, trying to tell us what we can do with what we own… I sure hope people wake up and don’t blindly vote for the same ol same ol like they seem to do every election.

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