Is Rockton against small business?

Gary Sands purchased 7 acres of land adjacent to the new Rockton Sports Fields (zoned agricultural) from Rock Energy CoOp. His intent is to start a tree-and-plant nursery on the property and to sell plants from this property. This same parcel had been offered to the Village of Rockton prior to his purchase.

The mayor has subsequently tried to persuade Mr. Sands to sell this parcel to the village. The mayor has even tried to convince him that another parcel would better suit his interests. Mr. Sands told a few people who had attended the village board meeting that the mayor had urged him to purchase a lot next to the sand pit on McCurry Road, west of Highway 251, selling his Old River Road property to the village. The recommended property is zoned commercial, and as such, has a higher tax rate.

Mr. Sands was told he couldn’t sell plants on his property without commercial zoning.

He was told he couldn’t legally access his property through the public access to the park.

He was told he couldn’t drill a water well.

He was told the property couldn’t be used for anything, that Mr. Sands had no property rights because the village board dictates what the land can be used for, and the mayor controls the board; therefore, Mayor Dale Adams strongly encouraged Sands to work out a deal with him to find other property.

At the July 18 Administration Committee meeting, Trustee Zack Baker read from the agricultural zoning ordinance, which holds that the “sale of products produced on the premises” is permitted. Trustee Baker commented that the village board was “in dangerous territory” when it was “trying to make things difficult” for property owners. Mr. Sands had stated earlier that he had been told by the mayor he could not drill a well, then that he had to get permission from Winnebago County Health Department. The Health Department told Sands it was not involved for properties located within village boundaries. Trustee Baker charged that the village was “setting a dangerous precedent” and asked, “What’s next?” Mr. Sands also stated that he had been cited for allowing tall weeds and grass on his property. Numerous other properties in Rockton on main roads into and out of the village have not been cited for the same ordinance violation. This could be viewed as harassment and intimidation of Mr. Sands.

At the last Tuesday village board meeting, Mr. Sands said he will be entering a formal request to drill a well. Trustee Zack Baker asked: “What estimation of turn time we could give him on an answer? Also, if the former opinion by the mayor will stand that he would not be allowed to drill a well, how long would it take for the village to start the work on extending service to his property line? All of this being said with the intention of not prolonging his ability to utilize his property for his desired business.” Mayor Adams responded simply, “Bring it up at a committee.”

Mayor Adams is insistent that Mr. Sands hook up to village sewer and water. Logic would dictate that treated city water and sewer are both unnecessary for growing plants. Plant nurseries use large volumes of water. His own well would be cost effective for him. The added sewer charges, based on water usage, would be unnecessarily burdensome for Mr. Sands.

Dean G. Mohring
Rockton Township Trustee

From the Aug. 10-16, 2011, issue

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