09 February 2017

Meeting Postponement Inhibits Civic Involvement in Cherry County

An error in a published, public legal notice for a conditional use permit was apparently a basis for the postponement of the February 7th meeting of the Cherry County Planning and Zoning Board at Valentine.

At the January 31st meeting of the Cherry County Commissioners, it was indicated by public comment that the legal description given in the public notice in the newspaper of record – and as also sent to adjacent landowners – was erroneous. It stated: “section 20, T34N R29S” instead of the accurate T34N R29W. There was agreement that there is no such place, based upon accepted means of identifying land parcels.

After some discussion, the commissioners agreed – based up people in attendance as well as a prominent attorney – that the procedure to follow would be to open the scheduled public hearing at the zoning meeting, and then close the hearing for the CUP 01-17 application, and for it to be considered at a later meeting, following the publication of a corrected legal description via a public notice. The county attorney had a similar point of view.

The result. The meeting was postponed for some unapparent reason.

What a mistake this was as there were other items on the meeting agenda that had been properly placed by personal request. There were two items indicated under old business as item a: 1) deicing turbine blades, and 2) Wetlands (zoning and general plan). Dean Smith was also an invited guest that was going to speak on land values in regards to wind turbines. An ongoing item that would have been dealt with was to “review progress on wind study & commissioner’s request.”

The people that had properly requested that these items were on the agenda, were stifled from speaking in a timely manner and being involved in a civic manner for items which should have been addressed at the 7th meeting. Since when do items of concern to county residents be cancelled, seemingly because of a CUP request – which is not entirely compliant - by a corporate interest. The public hearing for this CUP was just one item on the agenda.

A request will be made for the “record” of how and why the meeting was postponed. For example, what discussions occurred, and by whom, prior to the decision for the postponement? This was a decision made by people representing Cherry county and is therefore public information.
This is another example – as well as several others previously – how mistakes are mistakes are being made that cause unnecessary travel, result in inaction, cause frustration, as well as other issues by county residents that expend their personal time and money to be involved with county government action or inaction.

It is obvious that the procedure to reschedule was deficient.

There had been a change in the meeting date placed on the front door of the Cherry county administrative center, apparently on February 3rd, according to a county official.
This is wholly inadequate. How many people drove in from homes many miles distant to check the front door about a significant change in a previously scheduled public meeting? There had been nothing heard on the radio. There was nothing in the local newspaper, but to learn from that source would require a subscription or purchase.

The six people present for the meeting had driven a distance of either 38 miles, 45 miles, 65 miles and 25 miles, and even walked two miles in cold weather to be at the meeting room at Valentine.
There is an indication that a phone call was made to one of the people, but they had been traveling, so the phone message received was known too late to change travel plans that included hurried travel of hundreds of miles.  Should an email be sent to another person with indicated items on the agenda, as they cannot afford a phone? During a discussion at the Valentine sale barn, a county landowner said they had heard that the days’ meeting was cancelled. This ranch wife then called the wife of a member of the zoning board to confirm that this was the case.

The meeting should have occurred as scheduled so that other important items on the agenda would have been dealt with!

There was enough concern/frustration about this situation that a small contingent of concerned citizens walked southward along Main Street to meet with Eric Scott, county attorney. He graciously took time to listen and respond to key topics of interest. All of the seats within the office of attorney Scott were appropriately occupied during the evening hour.

There are also other items of concern in regards to the planning meeting agenda. As given on the official Cherry county website, the date of the meeting was indicated as February 6th, though the meeting was to occur on the 7th, the previously defined Tuesday afternoon meeting day. Also, there was no “public comment” period agenda item as had been indicated at the January 3rd meeting would henceforth be a regular agenda item.

Ironic is that a newly issued public notice for a public hearing on CUP 01-17 – as issued in the February 8th newspaper of record, the legal description given is still not completely accurate; “Section 20, T34N R29” does not meet any required designation as required for any land parcel, and would be found to be inadequate in regards to any land transaction. The CUP application may be accurate, but the public notice is not. As least the revised notice had been revised to remove inconsistencies about the ability for members of the public to speak, as indicated at the most recent county commissioner meeting.