Farmers make case on county rules and land rights

Thursday, July 31, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:02 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 11, 2008

In a heated session held Wednesday to air complaints about drafts of stream buffer and zoning ordinances, the Boone County Commission gave up ground to local farm leaders.

Representatives from the Boone County Farm Bureau, Boone County Cattlemen’s Association, the Boone County Soil and Water Conservation District and other organizations were called to the work session with county commissioners.

Their complaints — previously expressed in a letter sent by the organizations to 2,200 property owners — included fear that the stream buffer ordinance would infringe on property rights.

The proposed ordinance would require leaving at least 25 feet of natural vegetation along stream banks on all land in the county, County Planning Director Stan Shawver said. Existing farms and developments already following other conservation plans would not be affected, and neither would land surrounding ditches in agricultural areas, Shawver said.

Steve Baima of the Boone County Cattlemen’s Association said that he supported measures to protect streams from runoff, but that including agricultural land would be “an imposition” on farmers’ property rights. Baima said he thought farmers would be more receptive to a rule specifying how much land can be disturbed. “It’s got to be different than a shotgun approach to producers in the county,” he said.

Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller said she wants to work with Baima to possibly replace the buffer requirements with a clause dealing with the amount of land that can be disturbed on agricultural property.

“One of the things we need to realize is that we’re all connected, and we need to protect the water,” Miller said.

“Don’t jump to conclusions,” she said. “Work with us.”

Farm representatives also expressed concern about deletion of a sentence from a draft of county zoning ordinances, which specified that agricultural land would be exempt from regulation concerning noise, smells or equipment left out on property.

Although Shawver explained that the state law prohibits the county from legislating activities on agricultural land, Farm Bureau member Eldon Kreisel said he was worried that the state definition might change, and without a definition in county ordinances, agricultural land would not be protected. Kreisel also said the county had not given the organization adequate notice of the change.

“This slipped through, and we didn’t know anything about it,” he said. “It was pretty close to being closed out until we started sending letters.”

After lengthy discussion, Shawver said he would be willing to put the sentence exempting agriculture back in the draft.

The zoning ordinance is at least 60 days from a vote, Presiding Commissioner Keith Schnarre said. And Miller said the stream buffer ordinance is at least a year from a vote because it will require extensive mapping.

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