Morning Sun
  • County talks RWD No. 1 plans

  • The Crawford County Commission has a lot to think about this time of year. Budget requests are coming in and state/federal funds are going out.

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  • The Crawford County Commission has a lot to think about this time of year. Budget requests are coming in and state/federal funds are going out.
    However, Tuesday's meeting spent a good portion of time talking not about the budget, but about trees.
    The Crawford County Rural Water District No. 1 had come before the commission a few months ago for a conditional use request for its new 30' x 40' building after discovering that it was not immune to building permits as a municipality. At that time, the district was sent to the county Planning and Zoning Board to create a development plan. Although the building is nearly complete, district officials are trying to go through the process nonetheless.
    At Tuesday's meeting, the recommendations of the Planning and Zoning Board came before the commission and got tweaked and changed before being approved.
    The Planning and Zoning Board had given approval for the conditional use with a set of five stipulations. First, the district would put asphalt on the parking lot within the next 18 months. Second, the district would put a swell in the parking lot to direct water to the southwest. Third, sump pumps should be directed away from adjacent property lines. Fourth, guard rails would be installed around the ramp to the basement for safety and the ramp would be equipped with a locking gate. Finally, the board required that six-foot cedar trees be placed on the north and west sides of the property lines to act as a screen.
    Many of those stipulations were agreed to by the district, such as the guard rails, sump pumps, and asphalting. The district had also agreed to some screening, but that's where the issue began.
    "The screening on the west side had 10 six-foot cedar trees. We had an estimate on those, and it came out at $900 a tree. That means just for 10 on the west side, it's $9,000 ultimately, that will have to be passed on to our customers," said Tim Gintner of Crawford County Rural Water District No. 1. "The folks on the west side do not want to look at the building. The folks on the north had an issue with that. The recommendation of the board put the trees in between the old and the new plant. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me."
    If required, the screening on the north side, the water district officials said it would have been cost-prohibitive, and if done, would be passed along to the customers. Gintner also said the neighbor to the north may have hard feelings about the purchase of the land on which the new building sits.
    Dale Burnick, project engineer for the water district, said that he had read through the regulations on zoning, and found the only official requirement for screening is when headlights are pointed at another property. Burnick called the zoning board's recommendations "arbitrary." He said the district proposed three-foot trees only on the west side.
    Page 2 of 2 - Additionally, Nancy Clark, district bookkeeper, said that she was worried the extra trees to the north.
    "If somebody grabs me and I scream, I want someone to see me and not trees," Clark said.
    Further, the water district officials said the swell in the asphalt was unnecessary, provided the county clear the ditches, deepen them and put new, larger drainage tubes in place. Burnick said he was given a letter at the time of the last zoning meeting about the potential runoff by the construction. Burnick said he ran his own numbers and found the runoff would be negligible compared to now, and may actually be improved once landscaping is complete.
    Gintner also argued that by making additional requirements, the commission and zoning board would be "discouraging investment."
    Judy Freeman, county zoning administrator, said the planning and zoning board was acting as it always had, and was not trying to single out anyone. Rather, she said, it was looking out for the public.
    "They're just the things they already discussed. I understand they did not get the letter. It was not presented in the meeting. It was new information that day," Freeman said. "Because this is a conditional land use, the board can recommend whatever they want to be conducive to the general welfare of the public. Through two public meetings, this is what they felt needed to be brought to your attention."
    County commissioners said that they would agree to cleaning the ditches and expanding the pipes to help with the drainage, eliminating that requirement from the recommendations.
    Further, commissioners said that they understood the need for trees on the west side, but that the north side trees were unnecessary, as it didn't hide the old structure, only the new one.
    Eventually, the commissioners and the water district officials agreed to screening only on the west side, but instead of 6' cedar trees, they required a three-rail plastic fence, standard height.
    In other action, the county commission heard from Becky Gray and Steve Lohr, both from SEK-CAP, about potential cuts coming to that organization (full story later in the week) and Mac Young, District Court Administrator, about the district court's planned budget.

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