It’s not always as easy as it seems |

It’s not always as easy as it seems

Nancy Dallas

Resolving issues through the governmental process can be a laborious and time consuming experience. Amazement is frequently expressed that government can be so complex and difficult.

Patience is severely tested and frustrations mount as lengthy debate and legal complexities swirl about issues that some think simple common sense could easily resolve.

Following the letter of the law can often create an unwanted dilemma out of what, at first appearance, seemed a clear cut, no nonsense solution.

So goes the difficult life of an elected official!

* Due to an error by a county employee, a bit of complexity was added to the issue of the mobile home sitting illegally on a residential lot in Mound House. Residents want it moved and have brought considerable attention to the issue. The commissioners have, in unison, also stated they want it moved.

As of Tuesday, through no fault of the commissioners, it was still there.

Frustrating; however, unless the owner shows an inclination to move it voluntarily, until the roads through the legal process are properly traveled, the commissioners are powerless to do anything about it. Ignoring the law and simply removing it is not an option.

* Despite attempts by many, the Highway 50 Wrecking Yard is still there in its very visible state of disrepair. Existing laws have foiled efforts to get it cleaned up or removed. The situation may yet get resolved to everyone’s satisfaction; however, since the owner seems quite happy with things as they are, it will remain in its current state until the proper legal course of action is found.

Frustrating to those wishing to force this business to conform to current county codes, but ignoring or eliminating these bothersome legal barriers is not an option.

* A special use permit issued in September 1999 to the owner of a Fernley seminar facility required that he chip-seal the access road in order to receive a business license. Citing unexpected and time-consuming efforts spent bringing the group’s housing facility up to code, the road work was not done. Now, due to cooler weather, work will not be started on the project until May.

With work on the housing facility now completed and the business enterprise losing money with each delay, the owner wants to open for business now. In order to be allowed to open before the road is paved, he asked commissioners to modify the permit and accept a performance bond in guarantee the road work would be done by July1.

County codes say modifications (changes) to special use permits must go back through the public hearing process. The commissioners’ legal counsel recommended this course of action. It would have delayed the issuance of a business license until March, but would have allowed the neighbors, whose complaints of dust from the road caused the paving condition to be included, a chance to testify on the requested change.

After much debate, and in the face of pleadings from the owner that he was at risk of losing his business with further delays in opening, the commissioners opted to allow the performance bond without further public hearing.

Difficult decision. Frustrating scenario – do they stick to the law, or show some government compassion to an apparently suffering businessman?

Ordinances are established with the intent of protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public. In dealing with existing laws, however, we can often become frustrated when the rules appear to prohibit, not encourage, a reasonable solution.

Determining when to use some flexibility and when to “go by the book” can be difficult. There are always concerns with setting precedence. Making exception to the law, no matter how seemingly inconsequential, can come back to haunt you.

The posting of a performance bond is not unique and that is not the issue.

The issue is changing a condition on a special use permit without going through the proper public hearing process, thus eliminating an opportunity for those most affected by the change to speak to the problem.

The owner’s pleas of financial hardship not withstanding, where will the line be drawn when the next request for an immediate change in a special use permit is made on the grounds of impending financial hardship?

Government at its finest was not necessarily intended to be efficient, only fair. Government at its worst is when it does not meet this standard. Sometimes being fair simply becomes complex and time consuming. And frustrating – to all involved.

It can be an eye opening, and frustrating, experience for an elected official when they realize that solving problems from the seat of power is not as simple as it is from the seat at the local coffee shop.

Nor was it intended to be.

Think about it.