JeffCo 911: Never Mind that Permitting Stuff

20 Dec

I have written a couple of times previously on Jefferson County 911’s battle to implement its plan for a new network of communications towers in the county. JeffCo 911 has run into opposition on many of its tower sites, with the County Board of Adjustment denying permits for towers in Dittmer and Barnhart, the County Planning and Zoning Commission offering a “no recommendation” on one in De Soto, and the Arnold P & Z  Commission rejecting a tower there. But now JeffCo 911 is telling us they don’t need approval after all; state law apparently gives them all the authority they need to proceed.

From what I gather in the Leader, JeffCo 911 didn’t request a legal opinion on the matter until it appealed the Arnold tower rejection. The attorneys for both Arnold and 911 (hired especially for this issue because both entities employ Bob Sweeney as their regular attorney, and thus he had a conflict of interest) looked into the issue and concluded 911 can proceed with their towers.

The question here is, how much money, time, and manpower was wasted preparing for all these zoning hearings when they were unnecessary? It is clear from 911 chief Travis Williams that they wanted to do things the nice way, as long as there weren’t any difficulties. From the Leader:

Williams said 911 was trying to appease the county and the cities by going through their zoning process for the towers. “We were trying to be good neighbors, not ramming this down anyone’s throats. But we can’t stop progress and technology moving forward because of a few disgruntled citizens.”

In other words, we didn’t want to ram this down anyone’s throats, but now we are going to. I love his use of the words “appease” and “disgruntled citizens.” 911 had to know damn well that at least some of these towers would face opposition. People get all fired up when you try to build stuff in their backyard. I have been supportive of the tower effort and critical of the NIMBY folks complaining about their view and their property values. But if 911 planned to go through the process just to be nice, and then do an end run if the going got rough, that’s just irresponsible and, as I said, a waste of council members’ and staff members’ time and government entities’ money. And it will tick people off even more.  If it wasn’t their plan, they should have requested this legal opinion at the start of this process, especially since, as Williams said:

“We kind of always suspected from the get-go we have the power to develop the tower because of public safety.”

I agree with Arnold councilwoman Michelle Hohmeier:

“I just have a problem with how 911 handled this. It’s like they tried to play nice, but then said, ‘If you don’t go along, we’ll do it anyway.”

Barnhart tower protester Ann Moloney says she intends to continue her fight, and I suspect the tower opponents in Arnold won’t go away, either.

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One Response to “JeffCo 911: Never Mind that Permitting Stuff”

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  1. We Have an Activist on Our Hands « Jefferson County Penknife - January 30, 2013

    […] I think the towers are necessary, and their usefulness outweighs aesthetic concerns (although I disagree with the 911 Board’s decision to pull the plug on their attempts to get local approval for […]

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