Something is rotten in the state of Peninsula Township (apologies to Shakespeare). A recent event on the Peninsula underscores what I believe is a trend to have the Peninsula become more like a police state than an easygoing neighborly place to live.
What we have created is a system where we allow one or more Township officials to show up on your doorstep with or without police escort to demand that you stop doing some unverified action that they deem is a violation of a zoning ordinance.
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These Gestapo-like tactics have to stop. Besides, don’t our law enforcement people have better things to do than traipse around with the zoning people to serve a notice of infraction of a flag in the right-of-way?
Just so you know, the other so-called infractions in this instance turned out to be not infractions after all – a home camper parked in the owner’s backyard and his motorcycle for sale in his front yard.
Since when did the practice of sending a letter politely pointing out that there may be an infraction of a zoning ordinance and asking the person for a response or correction end?
As of now, this person has seven days to respond. While I believe that in some instances this may be insufficient time for action or a response, I will take that. Please note that the Township zoning officials recently proposed changing that to zero days of notice. Imagine that! Another sign of a police state mentality – first take away your due process rights and then, if desired on the whim of the zoning folks, bring in the police. This is serious.
Another example of the police state mentality is the offer by the Township attorney to provide free of charge to the Township access to the Stasi-like spy organization that spies on people who are offering a room in their house for rent on the Peninsula. Do you think this is right? I do not.
So what do I think should be done? First of all, we should eliminate the position of zoning enforcement officer. Our Township is a bloated one already, and do we need two people doing this job? Barring that, this position should be limited to investigating real complaints on a purely part-time basis. It should not provide for free rein to drive around the Peninsula in search of infractions. Next, we will probably be offering rewards for people to turn their neighbors in.
Second, a Township Board member should not serve in any paid capacity, period. This is a serious conflict of interest on many scores. He should be required to recuse himself from any consideration of a zoning issue that comes before the Township Board. Can our Board truly ride herd on one of their co-board members? Can they really fairly evaluate his performance when it comes to complaints or his salary? This needs to change. It doesn’t pass the smell test.
Finally, there needs to be rules set by the Board with regard to the issue of how a citizen is informed of a violation. It should be done by a letter or a phone call first. Then, depending on the response, they need to decide what action is necessary, and all this needs to be spelled out in rules set by the Board and made known to the public.
I plan on asking the Township Board to do the above at their regularly-scheduled meeting tomorrow (Tuesday, June 8, 7 p.m., Township Hall). I think you should let the Township know that you do not condone this action.
(Got something to say? Email Opinion pieces to Gazette Editor Jane Boursaw, [email protected].)
A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers like the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and magazines like Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So of course, I started my own newspaper. Because the Gazette is mainly reader-supported, I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks my way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the Old Mission Peninsula. Check out the donation page here. Thank you so much for your support. -jb