Barn dispute misguided
Some people tar Bob Ford for building his barn in 2002. But the county should be tarred for its mishandling of this case, which began with the writing and approval of Storm Water Management regulations. It contains an unfair paragraph which demands businesses create and implement an expensive Storm Water Management plan, but doesn’t demand that of farmers or homeowners. It has always violated the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.
To comply, Ford reduced his barn plans to meet 3,000 square feet exemption, but the Morgan County Planning Commission still would not issue a building permit. Under the time pressure of a summertime business, Ford opted to build the barn anyway. This produced three issues. The county engineer improperly measured the barn at more than 3,000 square feet. A neighbor complained of water runoff even after the drainage was rerouted. And, the $300 fine for building without a permit.
In spite of many meetings to resolve these issues, the Planning Commission assessed a fine of $100 per day. Ford sued for relief.
Although the county seemed to win the lawsuit, it effectively lost by netting nothing. Ford had already offered to pay the assessed fine for building without a permit. The new county engineer properly found the barn was under the 3,000 square foot limit, used for agriculture, and demanded no changes. The county squandered our money.
In studying Constitutional Law, I found that the county needed a good reason for not affording equal protection to people. Obviously, storm water runs off identical buildings in the same way irrespective of the building’s uses, farm, homeowner or business. So, there is no proper building use issue related to Storm Water Management.
There is, however, a lack of equal protection for Morgan County businesses. A later County Commission and Planning Commission agreed. However, the Planning Commission has yet to remedy this abuse of Morgan County citizens.
In retrospect, this case should never have happened because county government was wrong in writing and approving the Storm Water Management rules. The Planning Commission was wrong in not issuing a building permit, for turning a molehill case into a losing mountain, for not fixing their error after all these years and many opportunities, and wasting our tax money.