The Zoning Board

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I took the kids to another public meeting last night.  This time we went to hear the zoning board.  Lucky for all involved, first we went to the library, so the boys had something to do.

Just to give a little bit of back-story, I was recently asked to join the board for Friends of Historic Brattonsville after volunteering for two years and getting to know several of the long time board members.  Now, Brattonsville is owned by the county as part of their museum system, but Hightower Hall, which sits on a part of the Historic Brattonsville site, is owned by the Friends of Historic Brattonsville.  Since I joined the board, that makes me a Friend, and a representative for the group that owns Hightower Hall.  Hightower Hall is a huge plantation style 150+ year old home on beautiful grounds, and is used for weddings, events, and yearly Civil War reenactments.  The entire operation for all of the combined property brings in quite a bit of revenue and, in 2014 alone, hosted over 26,000 visitors.

Well, right down the road is a landfill/ mining business of sorts.

The current dig and dump site is about five acres and has caused significant trouble for the neighbors.  Back in the day (you know – the 18th/ 19th century and such) Brattonsville Road started out as a trade route, then became a main thoroughfare, and is now a paved country road that was never made to handle dump trucks carrying gravel or logging trucks carrying full loads of timber.  But with the mining operation, that is exactly the kind of traffic travelling up and down the road, which runs right through the middle of the historic site.  The trucks have caused huge pavement issues, and the digging has caused soil degradation and water runoff onto the Friends property already.  This is all not to even mention those 26,000 visitors that cross the road twice on their tour of the grounds.  Needless to say, there is significant foot traffic on a regular basis.  Did I also mention that every publicly schooled third grader in York County is part of the pedestrian visitors crossing that road that the gravel trucks travel?

I am thinking plain sense tells people that these are not ideal neighbors.

Friends of Historic Brattonsville isn’t feeling neighborly love, that’s for sure.

And yet, Mr. Dig and Dump wants to expand his operation.  Double it?  Nope.  Quadruple it?  Nada.  He wants to expand it to around thirty acres.  Six times its current size.  And.  He wants to dig down seventy feet.  And.  He wants to only provide the minimum easements required by the county.

This gets us back to the zoning board.

Apparently only immediate neighbors have to be told about zoning issues and said neighbors are given a week’s notice.  The neighbors including Friends of Historic Brattonsville.  Plus, it is spring break, we just finished a major event, and guess who is the only board member available for Thursday night?  The homeschooling mom.  The one member that has been to one whole board meeting.  The one that has never in her life been to a zoning meeting.  The one that embarrassed herself in a TV interview nine years ago and has not been on camera since.  Me.  (I feel like this would be a good time to mention Jesus using the weak and such.  Just saying.  But I did volunteer to go, so I could also mention the whole have faith and be available part as well.)

So…here we are, sitting in the meeting, and there is of course a TV camera to follow up on the newspaper article covering the dispute, and I am quickly trying to figure out what to say when it is my time to speak, and all I can think of is what I tell my kids when we go to the grocery store.

If your fun infringes on others’ shopping pleasure, you aren’t having fun.  You’re being obnoxious and rude.

The meeting starts, business happens, and then the first item of new business comes up.  It is another company that wants to expand their mine on their land, which is in the middle of nowhere on well paved roads with their only known neighbor being an actual member of the zoning board.  They want to dig twenty feet deeper than they currently have permission to dig.  They want to provide double the minimum easement around their entire three hundred acre farm, and only thirty acres will actually be the mine.  The rest is to remain farmland.  They want to keep the mine as a dig only site.  They want it written in that they will not be a landfill.  No dumping.  Their mining is going to be used in part for state and county road projects.  (Our roads are terrible, so improving them would be appreciative.)

Item one gets approved.

We’re item two.

Representative for Mr. Dig and Dump stands up.

And he asks for his request to be deferred indefinitely.  Item one was beautiful.  And in it’s beauty, his ugly stood out.  Not to mention the entire section of dissenters and landowners and museum employees ready to speak on behalf of Hightower Hall might have been a signal that he didn’t have community support.

In the end, we all stood up and left.  Never did understand what item three was about because the boys and I went for pizza.  We didn’t win last night, but we didn’t lose.  The boys are getting a wonderful education in current local politics, and I am experiencing small town government at work.  It really is quite fascinating when you know some of the players involved.  And the next time, I will feel much more prepared.  (But I may still say what I wanted to say – If your business interferes with our business, you aren’t conducting business.  It’s called being a bully, and even two boys in a grocery store know to be better than that.)