A Yankton County Planning commissioner is concerned that the board took action on zoning enforcement last week without all of the information in front of its members.
During a specially called meeting last Friday, the Planning Commission — acting with the enforcement powers of zoning administration it had been granted by the Yankton County Commission earlier in the week — revoked a handful of building permits and conditional-use permits for CAFOs in Yankton County citing non-compliance. The impacted applicants were John Gunderson, Josh Johnson, Jay Cutts and Karl Schenk.
At Tuesday night’s Planning Commission meeting, Commissioner Greg Hansen told the board that he had been approached by Gunderson with a copy of a letter that had been presented to Planning & Developing District III — which had been contracted to provide zoning duties for much of the year until its final contract extension ran out Sept. 30. This letter had not been included in a packet of information on each case the commissioners had utilized during Friday night’s meeting. The contents of the letter were not divulged during the meeting.
Hansen detailed his attempts to get direction from other Planning Commission members, calls to other affected parties inquiring whether they had been informed of the meeting Friday and a meeting with Deputy Zoning Administrator Jessica Atkinson that he had on Monday.
“In the discussion with Jessica, she said, ‘Should I tell Joe (Healy) about this?’” Hansen said. “I said, ‘Yeah, we need to talk about this with everybody on the commission, and why would Joe be any different?’ Then she tells me about what happened at the (County) Commission meeting on Oct. 1, which I didn’t know anything about, and this is where I started to have really bad heartburn.”
He found the lack of notice about the County Commission’s actions last week disturbing.
“The Planning Commission was not told at the first meeting we had after actions were taken to change the duties of the zoning and planning administrator’s office that this had happened,” he said.
Hansen said, with the introduction of this letter to him, he can’t be sure that there isn’t other missing information from the other applications.
“Did (Brian) McGinnis (of District III) have other information that we don’t know about?” Hansen said. “He had some here, so how do we know he doesn’t have some for Josh Johnson, Jay Cutts and Karl Schenk? We don’t know that.”
Hansen also raised concerns that the process had been excessively rushed.
“We were tasked by the (County) Commission and we had three days to be the enforcement officer,” he said. “On an issue this serious with this much attention paid that has as much at stake across this county as it does, we rushed it like this, and I find out there’s information missing — and I say we as the county did it. First of all, I think it’s absolutely unprofessional and I also think that if we don’t do something about this, it’s going to hurt the county and the applicant.”
Hansen proposed that the county look into reconsidering the items.
“For the applicants and for the county, the best way to do this is to go back and start over before this gets out of hand,” he said.
However, Commissioner Donna Freng pointed out the applicants failed to make their case during Friday’s special meeting.
“There’s two sides to every story, but nobody was in this room to tell us their side,” Freng said. “We have to go with the side we have. This isn’t a court of law; we’re not trying to pick who’s guilty and who’s innocent. What we’re trying to do is be a zoning administrator who drives out to the property, looks at the property, sees they haven’t started building, issues them a stop-work order.”
Planning Commission Chair Kristi Schultz said affected applicants had ample time and opportunity to make the Planning Commission aware of their circumstances.
“They were notified of the meeting and they chose not to come,” Schultz said. “Had they done their due diligence, they would’ve had the right to present this evidence that was mistakenly not put in the packet.”
Schultz recommended that the board look to State’s Attorney Rob Klimisch for direction.
“I think we need to talk to the state’s attorney to find out what the best course of action is,” she said.
It was stated that Klimisch had been expected to attend the meeting Tuesday, but he was not present.
An additional special meeting was proposed, but no date was set pending availability of the commissioners and Klimisch.
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