Property Rights in a One Party State


Our Neighborhood Courtesy Bing Maps

I grew up in the northwest Indiana suburbs of Chicago and watched the innate corruptness of King Richard’s domain nightly on television. This probably had something to do with how I became a Republican. See, I was a silly and idealistic kid, I thought the law meant something.

My friends over at Grassroots in Nebraska (at least i hope they still are) a while ago wrote a series on how politics in Nebraska is a one party affair. They are absolutely right but, out here it goes farther, If your father and maybe grandfather weren’t members, they aren’t very interested.

Anyway, one of the neatest dodges they use is the International Property Management Code (Thanks, Nebraska Legislature). I have a whole series in preparation on this, that I will be publishing but, for now, you’ll have to take my word for it. You don’t decide anything about your property; that’s up to the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), which in most cases will be your friendly local building inspector.

Oh, yeah, we have zoning laws, too. Our (rented, actually) property is zoned M-1, which is light manufacturing. Make perfect sense, it’s about a block from the mainline of the Union Pacific, no one in their right mind would build a house on it, anyway. The thing is, when we rented the property, one of the attractions was that the zoning allows for outside storage. As an electrical contractor we tend to have some awkward sized and shaped things that don’t need to be inside, plus some metallic junk waiting to go the recycling center when we have enough to make it worthwhile. The lot also has a chain link fence which, in theory anyway, should keep the kids from playing there.

That’s all well and good. A couple of years ago we were going along minding our own business when we got a city citation for material (junk, according to the city), stored in our lot (the AHJ also has the power to decide the definition of junk). So like good little obedient lapdogs we asked the Code Enforcement Official to meet us on site, which he did. Some of his complaints were valid (in our eyes) and some weren’t. What really irritated us was that his demands requests had nothing whatsoever to do with our zoning, and not much to do with residential zoning either and some explicitly contradicted federal law. We had our zoning rules on our clipboard as we walked around, he finally told us he had never read them, his job was the IPMC .

We finally reached an agreement that we wouldn’t store things on the ground, zoning be damned, which essentially meant that they would be loaded onto our trailers (which he understood), which tend to run for designated types of jobs, and the loads were sorted accordingly.

So we go along for a year . Then its time to play again. My partner, who lives next door, gets cited for amongst other things, an unpermitted fence that he used to contain his dog. When he built the fence he obtained the appropriate permit and built accordingly, so we rather went, Huh? But, anyway, he wasn’t using it so we tore it down and stored it. Just not worth the argument.

Here’s your IPMC tidbit for the day: A fence must start within 18 inches of your sidewalk in front and enclose your entire yard (or something close to that, the code is not in front of me right now).

So to bring this sorry tale down to the present, as of the last citation, we can no longer store things on the trailers, which means I have to schedule someone to take a truck and pull a half loaded trailer of scrap metal 60 miles and back. Use up a half a day for truck and driver (and a fair amount of wasted fuel). One of the other trailers, I don’t know what to do with, anybody need some used railroad ties and plywood, a good used pickup tool box, maybe? Too good to throw away, neatly loaded, haven’t found the right spot to use.

Oh, one other thing, about 3 blocks away, there is another lot, a little larger than ours. This one has piles of scrap, inoperable vehicles and about 15 air conditioner condensers laying around. I don’t have a real problem with this, I understand the business, they’re in the same businesses we are. What I do have a problem with is that they haven’t been cited, ever. Gee, I don’t know why, don’t suppose it could be because the president of the company is the Mayor, could it? Nah, couldn’t be.

Update: I’ve been informed that I mispoke. We are actually zoned M2; no essential differences though.

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