Yesterday was bright for us for several reasons, not least of which was the Marion County Commissioners’ 3-0 rejection of the Nielsen’s request for them to hear an appeal of the denial of their lot partition request that Laurel and I have been fighting (along with other supportive neighbors) for what seems like eternity—but hasn’t been quite that long, I’m sure.
We got ourselves down to the Commissioners’ meeting room at the ungodly hour, for us, of 9:00 am, wanting to be there in time to hear Roger Kaye make use of the public comment time at the beginning of each meeting. Roger, President of Friends of Marion County, and apparently the only competent member of the Marion County Planning Commission, spoke clearly and cogently about the messed-up status of needed revisions to the county’s Sensitive Groundwater Ordinance.
The technical details of what he talked about are of interest only to groundwater aficionados like Laurel and me, but the political details should concern anyone who likes to believe that government bodies represent the interests of all the people, and not just those with money and political clout. Roger said that presently he is the only member of the Planning Commission without some tie to real estate development (George Grabenhorst), well drilling (Gary Monders), and other activities inimical to the goal of protecting rural residents’ groundwater.
So the Commissioners were warmed up to the subject before it came time to consider Denny and Laurie Nielsen’s appeal of the hearings officer’s rejection of their application to divide their Spring Lake Estates lot into two smaller lots, which would mean two wells. It took a lot of discussion to arrive at the conclusion that Laurel and I expected they would come to: that the hearings officer had carefully considered all the evidence in this case and appropriately concluded that our area couldn’t sustain an extra home and well.
One commissioner clearly wanted to find some reason to allow the Nielsen’s appeal, even saying at one point that she agreed that the legal process had been followed as it should, but that she still disagreed with the outcome (what does this mean? it’s akin to her saying that someone got a fair trial, and was convicted, but she wishes the wrong-doer had been acquitted; this attitude points to the fanaticism of many property rights advocates—it doesn’t matter what a real estate developer does to the environment, so long as he gets to use his property as he damn well wants to, regardless of the consequences to others).
This is a small victory for the environment, in the grand scheme of things. But the (clichéd) slogan still holds true: “Think globally, act locally.” And it also is a victory for our honest hydrologists, Malia and Greg Kupillas, who competently demolished the trumped-up data and arguments of the Nielsen’s hydrologist, Nick Coffey. Coffey caused us to spend quite a bit of money refuting his reports, and sadly the Nielsens spent even more. So we’re hoping that the Board of Geology ends up deciding to take away Coffey’s license before he does any more damage to his clients’ pocketbooks and nature’s groundwater.