Landowner told to remedy right of way obstructions

Board of Supervisors
By: 
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Signage in the right of way. Width of driveway and drainage pipe. Retaining wall. These items were opposed by County Engineer Derek Snead and the Jones County Supervisors, as pertaining to property located at 9635 230th Ave. in Fairview.

     Property owner Jason Gideon’s attorney, Jeff Beatty, was present at the Nov. 17 board of supervisor meeting, as was Snead. (Gideon is the owner of Energy Consultants Group.)

     Snead explained that in order for any landowner to alter the county right of way, a permit from the Engineer’s Office must be applied for, as well as prior approval.

     “You can’t do it and ask for (approval) afterwards,” he said of Gideon’s actions.

     In addition, he said Gideon had a 92-foot drainage pipe installed, when 72 feet is what is acceptable.

     “The length of the pipe was not approved,” Snead said.

     Snead also shared that a speed limit (regulation) sign was also installed in the right of way, something that was also not approved.

     Beatty said Gideon applied for a variance, which only applies to the county’s setback ordinance, not for installing obstructions in the right of way.

     “It does not cover anything within the right of way,” reiterated Snead. He explained that Iowa Code states that obstructions must be kept out of the right of way.

     Beatty said the fact that Gideon filled out the wrong form for his request is not grounds for a denial.

     “No form allows for the construction of a retaining wall in the right of way,” said Snead. “There’s no procedural way to go about it in Jones County.”

     Gideon previously approached the supervisors at a prior meeting asking for the speed limit on 230th Avenue to be reduced. Snead said if that is Gideon’s intention, placing obstructions within the right of way contradicts his intentions.

     “It’s a public road and needs to be treated as such,” Snead said.

     Snead said he tried multiple times to contact Gideon about the issues at hand with no reciprocation. Due to the inaction, Snead recommended to the board of supervisors that the county take steps to remedy the wrongs and assess the costs to Gideon.

     “We’ve made every attempt to work with him on this with no help on the matter,” said Snead.

     Beatty said Gideon wants to work with the county to resolve the dispute.

     “Hopefully we can avoid any misunderstandings moving forward,” said Beatty.

     While he acknowledged that the sign would likely have to come down, Beatty asked that the county allow the retaining wall and existing driveway to remain as is.

     “It’s a nice looking entrance,” he said of the access to Gideon’s business. “Drainage of the property is not adversely affected.”

     He said the width of the driveway is to allow large trucks to turn into the access with ease.

     “It would hamper the trucks’ ability to make deliveries,” added Beatty.

     Beatty shared images with the supervisors of other properties in the county showing similar structures such as wide driveways and retaining walls.

     “It’s an issue of fairness,” he said. “Jason put a lot of time and money into his property.”

     Snead and the board assured Beatty that Gideon was not being singled out in this case.

     “We’re not picking on him,” said Supervisor Jon Zirkelbach.

     County Attorney Kristofer Lyons said the county has rules and regulations in place for a reason. While the county gets requests for wider driveways, everyone has to be treated uniform.

     While Snead was ready to take action a week prior on demolition, the event was held off a week to allow Gideon to correct the situation.

     “He hasn’t done anything,” noted Lyons. “He’s in violation and you have to take action.”

     “Anything that goes in the right of way has to go through the county,” said Zirkelbach. “He’s not conforming with the policy. It should be removed.”

     Snead said a letter sent to Gideon on Oct. 14 outlined the violations.

     In the end, after much discussion, the supervisors and Snead agreed to give Gideon until Monday, Nov. 23 at 4 p.m. to come into compliance. If not, the Engineer’s Office will have the work completed at Gideon’s cost. The timeline extension is in exchange for Gideon agreeing to drop a pending legal action against the county, per Lyons’ recommendation.

In other county business:

     The board approved submission of a request to the Iowa Department of Economic Development to amend a CDBG grant contract for food needs related to COVID-19.

     The county was awarded a $43,000 grant; only about $6,000 was used. The county wishes to repurpose the funding to purchase food for the food pantries, which requires amending the contract.

     The board approved the vacation and closing of 680 feet of County Road E-45 west of the intersection with Highway 38 in Rome Township.

     The request was made by the single landowner on the property, with no objections.

     In September, Snead informed the board that he and Assistant Engineer Todd Postel were applying for a BUILD grant through the Federal Highway Administration to replace a bridge on Landis Road.

     During this most recent board meeting, Snead said Jones County’s application had been identified in the final screening process.

     “The likelihood of Jones County being awarded is really high,” said Snead. “It looks very promising at this point; it’s a big deal.”

     Snead said if chosen, the project would be awarded next summer.

     The board is looking into hosting a legislative forum with Jones County legislators in the near future. Talk surrounded whether to meet with the legislators in the evening or during a regular Tuesday morning board meeting.

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