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Mille Lacs County, Minnesota

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Since 4/18/07

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

In the Zone

Mille Lacs News staff writer


"Doesn't Steve Bye have a right to sell his property?" This wasn't a question meant to be answered. Considering the tone of delivery, it was another bullying tactic by the mayor of Onamia. I could be wrong, but it felt like he wanted to guilt me. Instead, it just made me mad. Steve selling to Nexus hurts his neighbors, (including me), not only emotionally but financially. Is it therefore still his right to sell?


Don't we all  have a right to sell our property to whomever we choose? In most cases, the answer to would be "yes, of course." In this case, however, the answer might be "No."


If you still operate under the assumption that America is a free country, you're watching too much Fox News. I admit, I'm usually the first alto singing in harmony to the song America The Beautiful. Purple mountains majesty above fruited plains bring tears of heart-felt patriotism to my eyes. I love this country.


But this country isn't totally free. It cannot be. Like any other society, we must adhere to rules of law. If we didn't, we might have freedom, but we'd also swallow a large dose of anarchy. Most of our laws were created to protect the public. Think of the accidents there'd be if there were no stop signs at intersections. Yikes! What if there were no speed limits? We need laws. Of course, some laws, especially out-of-date or weird laws should perhaps be discarded or changed. For example, there is a Minnesota law that says:


Citizens may not enter Wisconsin with a chicken on their head.


Do we really need this law? hmm... Can you imagine some poor chicken-headed schmuck sitting in a Hudson jail cell awaiting extradition? How embarrassing.


But back to our discussion about a citizen's right to sell his property.  Laws, such as  Zoning Ordinances are in place to protect us, the neighboring property owners and general public.  Zoning goes hand in hand with city planning to ensure continuity within an area that makes sense both short term and in the long run. It also keeps city officials in check. Or at least its supposed to...


The 38 acre building site which is slated for construction of the new Mille Lacs Academy was zoned R1. Zoning means that the use of this property has been limited to the building of a single family dwelling only. The owner is not free to do what he wants with his property. If the land is sold, the owner would change but the property would retain its R1 zoning. The use of the land is controlled by zoning ordinances. Steve certainly has the right to sell his land to someone who wants to build a house on it. I wouldn't argue that, not even to the mayor.


However, Steve knows that this land is being purchased through the city for the Nexus Corporation. He is in essence selling the land to the company. The city of Onamia is acting like a middle man to facilitate this deal by purchasing the property, annexing it, and rezoning it to accommodate the large sexual offender institution; which does not adhere to the current zoning ordinances. It's a way for Steve, the City, and Nexus to circumvent the laws.


Don't like the laws? Ignore them.


Oh yes, land can be legally rezoned by the city. But according to the city ordinances, it must not be spot zoned. Spot zoning is when you stick something which is completely inappropriate or out of character in an area. One example: putting a stock yard and slaughter house right next to the hospital. Think they'd go for that? Or how about planting a corn field right downtown in the business district? Does that make sense? Another example: placing a large juvenile sex offender correction facility in a residential neighborhood, next to families with children, elderly folks, and three home day care centers. Not only does this violate the zoning laws, it's just plain stupid.


Onamia zoning ordinances also say that the neighbors must approve.  They don't.


But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Steve does have the right to sell his land to the city. Maybe it's the city which doesn't have the right to rezone the property just so Nexus can buy and build there. Creating a zoning island in the midst of R1 goes against zoning ordinances. Of course, there are rules about rezoning too, but the Onamia city council doesn't see fit to follow them either.


During the annexation meeting on June 13, the mandatory public hearing for rezoning was scheduled, which is proper procedure. However, between the time of the city council meeting and the availability of the Minutes, the Bye/Grosslein property had somehow mysteriously changed from R1 to R2, without going through proper procedures. The rezoning hearing was also abruptly cancelled. Of course, maybe it became unnecessary since the council had already changed the zoning - where - in the back room? At coffee? There seems to be a lot of that in Onamia. A change of zoning did not (could not) take place at the public city council meeting on June 13. It seems they slipped through another one...


Don't like the laws? Change them.


To finagle the Bye/Grosslein property deal and make everything legal, the city council will have to overwrite city ordinances. And for the Nexus Corporation, it appears they are willing to do so, regardless of how it affects property owners now or in the future. Do we trust Larry Milton, Bill Hill, Mark Loch, Bob Mickus, and Jerome Kryzer with the fate of the town? I certainly don't. Of course, the next bunch of local politicians can probably just change the ordinances back to sanity, shutting the barn door after the cows have run off.


Zoning ordinances are in place to protect the land from being abused and misused. If these laws can be so easily and spontaneously changed at the whim of a few council members, they are no longer effective at protecting us. We might as well all put chickens on our heads and catch the bus for Wisconsin. What does it matter?



Hannabelle's Blog:

 The Bradbury Buzzz




Hey! I can see your house from here!




Read about J.K.

 MLA juvenile sex offender.



Oh.... I get it. By ignoring the rules and just doing whatever they want, the Onamians are practicing what you called "creative zoning".

Yes. That's right. I think you should run for city council, dear.

Oh no! I couldn't! I'm honest.







I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy - but that could change.

Dan Quayle




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