I attended the December 16, 2021 Camden County Commission meeting at 10:00 a.m.
All commissioners were present. This is a summary of the meeting.
There was a large crowd in the audience and I was pretty sure they were there to talk about Camden County’s new Revised Land-Use Code. This is the rulebook that will lay out the requirements and rules for Planning and Zoning within the Planning and Zoning District of Camden County.
You can find copies of the Code here:
People might wonder if they are located within the Planning and Zoning District of Camden County so I’ve provided a map of the boundaries of the Planning and Zoning District. Planning and Zoning was first introduced to Camden County when the Unified Land-Use Code of 2004 was adopted by the Camden County Commission on June 1, 2004. The simplest way to explain it is if you own property within a few miles of the lake and the property is not in a municipality that has its own planning and zoning rules, your property is probably within the district.
According to Presiding Commissioner Hasty, this agenda item was to adopt new technical revisions to the revised Unified Land-Use Code the Commission adopted at the Commission meeting on October 21, 2021. This revised Code will take effect on January 1, 2022.
The first portion of the meeting was the Public Comment portion. There were probably twenty different citizens who went up to the microphone and complained about how the Commission handled the revisions for the Land-Use Code. If I tried to describe in detail everything they said, this article would be highly entertaining but it would also be about thirty pages long so I’m going to summarize the general tone of the comments and just highlight some portions.
All of the commenters were unhappy with the Commission. Some were very unhappy.
Many of the commenters stated that the new Code was much thicker and seemed to add a lot of new zoning restrictions for property owners. They felt there had not been adequate public notice about the new version of the Code and citizens hadn’t had the time to review it. One gentleman mentioned that he didn’t know about the meeting until he was driving to work and heard about it on the radio. He immediately turned his pickup around and drove to the courthouse to attend his first Commission meeting.
Commissioner Hasty responded to several of these notice complaints by explaining that Camden County had fulfilled the statutory notice requirements. They posted the meeting notices and the code online and put a notice in the Lake Sun newspaper. Apparently, the Commission had discussed some of the revisions at the October 21, 2021 Commission meeting and also adopted the new Code at that meeting (I didn’t write about that meeting because I was out of town. Sorry, readers!). I did look at the posted agenda for that meeting and there is an item that reads: “P&Z Code Revision”. Hasty said the two P&Z Board meetings where the new Code revisions were discussed were also noticed. Hasty commented that he remembered being “quite stunned” that there were hardly any citizens at the meetings because he expected a bigger turnout for it.
This triggered even more public comments from the audience. Commissioner Hasty was asked why the Commission still posts notices in the Lake Sun newspaper when there are much more widely viewed media outlets like Facebook that can get the word out more effectively. They were even more concerned that he did nothing even though he noticed that nobody was showing up at the meetings to ask questions. The Commission received criticism for making the minimum legally required effort to notify the public.
This is an interesting point because during the public comments from Nathan Rinne, Presiding Commissioner Hasty stated that the Code has already been adopted. He said, “We’ve already had the public hearings. We’ve had two public hearings with the Planning and Zoning Board and then with the Commission. All three hearings no one showed up. Not a soul.”
October 21, 2021 was the Camden County Commission meeting where the Commission adopted the revised Land-Use Code. This is the public hearing Commission meeting Hasty is referring to. I already mentioned that I couldn’t be there for that meeting, but one of my friends took video of the meeting. I watched it and I noticed this exchange early in the meeting between attorney Greg Williams and Presiding Commissioner Hasty. Now remember, this is the meeting that Presiding Commissioner Hasty said was the public hearing before the Commission:
Hasty: (to Greg Williams): “All right. Since you’re here to speak on behalf of this adoption, is there anyone in opposition?”
GW: “This isn’t a public hearing.”
Hasty: “Oh that’s right. We’re done. It’s just a vote. Sorry about that. All right. We’ve been waiting for this for a long time and I know that we will probably be doing some additional changes to streamline the process for our Planning and Zoning Administration. And certainly any of those things, Kim, that you want to have in the future to make this easier for us in a rapidly growing economy, well just be sure to let us know and we’ll get em up there.”
What the heck?
Another interesting note:
Kim Willey (regarding the Planning and Zoning Commission): “Their recommendation was to pass it to the Commission for further action. They didn’t actually approve the draft. They gave the Commission the approval to work on the draft.”
The entire video is here:
One of the public commenters hit the nail on the head with his comments: We need to keep watching them.
Greg Williams, the attorney who wrote the changes to the revised Code, was present during this meeting. Commissioner Gohagan confronted Greg Williams, asking why he had been excluded from the revision process. According to Gohagan, Greg Williams had only consulted with Commissioners Williams and Hasty. Gohagan said that Greg Williams had claimed he didn’t include him because he didn’t have Commissioner Gohagan’s email address which is publicly available on the Camden County Commission website. This was especially surprising because a lot of Camden County’s Planning and Zoning District is in Commissioner Gohagan’s district.
I got a look at the Sunshined billing records for Greg Williams’ work on the Code revisions. There were some interesting billing lines that seemed to show examples of Commissioner Gohagan not being included in the planning process.
For January 28, 2021, the billing record reads: “1/28/2021 GDW Conference with Commissioners Hasty and Williams”
For March 16, 2021, the billing record reads: “GDW Email to Hasty, McElyea, and Williams with Revised Code”.
For May 25, 2021, the billing record reads: “5/25/2021 GDW Conference with Commissioner Hasty regarding coordination of public hearing on zoning code enforcement”.
Stacy Shore was present and she objected to the fact that her name was used on a press release attached to the revised Code that was sent to the Planning and Zoning Commission. She said the verbiage used gave the impression that she had been involved in the revisions of the new version of the Code. In fact, she had only been invited to one lunch meeting at Old Kinderhook with Greg Williams, Commissioner Hasty, and Commissioner Williams regarding the Code. She had never given her approval for the changes that were made in the Code. She stated that the press release was a lie.
Some commenters mentioned that the Code was now so big that it would require an attorney to decipher. The Commissioners were each asked if they had completely read the current version of the revised Code and all three commissioners admitted they had not read the entire Code in its current state.
Commissioner Hasty reaffirmed that Camden County had provided notice for the Code revisions in accordance with the law. He checked with Kim Willey, the Planning and Zoning Administrator and she said the Planning and Zoning Board had voted 6-0 to send the revised Code to the Commission.
Another public commenter questioned why the vote from the Planning and Zoning Board only had six votes. The current Planning and Zoning Commission has 10 seats and includes the Road and Bridge Administrator. Each seat represents a Township from Camden County. Four of the seats are vacant and a fifth seat just recently became vacant because the Osage member is leaving the Planning and Zoning Commission. All four of these empty seats are from the 2nd District, Commissioner Williams’ district: Jackson, Warren, Jasper, and Kiheka. Commenters questioned how the Planning and Zoning Commission could do its job and represent the county’s townships on zoning issues when five of the Planning and Zoning Commission’s ten appointed seats were now vacant. Commissioner Williams had no answer as to why his district had four seats that had not been filled.
Attorney Greg Williams made a very unfortunate seating choice at the beginning of the meeting and he was seated right in front of the public comment table with his back to the microphone. As people would criticize him or the Code, it was difficult for him to turn around and look at them so he just had to sit there and endure it. Commenters questioned why the Commission had paid Williams to draft the policy when the Commission already has Charlies McElyea on salary as the County Attorney (or Legal Advisor to the Commission, depending on who you talk to). As a side note, the 2022 Camden County budget has set aside $84,343 in appropriations for the Legal Department which consists of Charlie.
Charlie also took some heat for exchanging a head shake with Commissioner Williams during some of the public comments as if the commenters “were all a bunch of idiots”. After that public comment, it was pretty funny watching Charlie try his best to keep a blank expression on his face for the remainder of the meeting.
Throughout the public comments, Commissioners Williams and Hasty emphasized that the Code was a living document and they were “all ears” for any suggestions from the public on portions of the code that might need to be revised and improved. They said the revised version of the Code is less restrictive than before the revisions. Frankly, the part of the revisions that Commissioner Hasty seems to be really passionate about is getting rid of the lake setback requirement. He constantly mentions it and brought it up multiple times at this meeting too.
Commissioner Gohagan then made a motion to table the revisions to the Code. Commissioner Williams seconded the motion and the revisions were tabled. Presiding Commissioner Hasty did not look happy.
The second agenda item was for Camden County Water District #2 which serves Montreal, MO. The water line from the airport to Montreal needs to be replaced. It is an old 4” pipe and the water pressure is low. It needs to be replaced with at least a 6” pipe. The estimate for the replacement is $4,000,000, but it sounded like that was more of a ballpark figure. They are hoping for ARPA funds to pay for the project.
Commissioner Hasty suggested that the project might qualify for matching funds from Missouri DNR. Apparently, the DNR matching grant program isn’t available yet, but Commissioner Gohagan pointed out that the project might get priority from DNR if the pipes have lead in them.
The third agenda item was three appointments to the SB 40 Board. These appointments were approved unanimously.
There were then four P&Z rezoning requests brought before the Commission. Nobody spoke in opposition to the rezoning requests. One gentleman talked to the Commission about one of them, but when the commissioners explained to him that the request was actually downgrading the lot from Industrial to Business, he seemed to be satisfied. All four rezoning requests were approved unanimously.
And that was that.