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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

Commission splits vote to enact nuisance regulations on lakes

Updated: Nov 7, 2023


MOUND CITY – After insults and innuendos were exchanged on Monday, August 28, the Linn County Commissioners voted 2 to1 to approve nuisance regulations for the lake developments and unincorporated cities in Linn County. Commissioner Jim Johnson voted against the nuisance regulation.


Codes Enforcement Officer Darin Wilson had approached the commission at the July 31 commission meeting about approving a set of nuisance regulations for the new residential districts added to the zoning regulations. Those districts included lake developments and unincorporated areas.

Wilson explained that the residential lake community was a new district in the regulations and because of that, nuisance regulations had not been developed to fit that district. The present county nuisance regulations did not fit those communities.


Wilson said that he had done some research and wrote these regulations for the residential communities.


At the July meeting, County Counselor Gary Thompson had explained that the county already enforces county regulations at the lakes. The thing is, the county regulations say you can have up to five inoperable cars on a tract but that is not really feasible at Centerville or the lake communities.

“Five inoperable cars on 20 acres looks a lot different than on a half-acre lot,” said Wilson.

At the July meeting, Commissioner Jim Johnson asked what the planning and zoning board had to say about the regulations.


Wilson said that his understanding on codes enforcement is that planning and zoning is not a part of that.


Thompson said that was correct, but if the commissioners wanted them to weigh in on it, the commission could ask them to do so. However, the planning and zoning commission is not a part of codes enforcement.


At Monday’s meeting Johnson repeated the same question he had asked before – Why did the county have to enforce the lake developments codes?


Johnson said, “How can we back them on decisions that they don’t even follow their own codes. I’ve reached out to multiple people at Sugar Valley, and they said they don’t even follow the rules they have written theirselves.

He asked why the county needs to go police private property.


Johnson, “Why do we need to step off into something with the HOAs when it isn’t a county policy? Why do we need to go police private property when they have their own HOA rules?”


Wilson answered they are still part of the county.


Commissioner Jason Hightower said to Johnson, “They still pay taxes, Jim.”


“It don’t matter, you take across the street, it’s the same right across the street, how can you stop it? Over here, not here, without getting liability issues?” asked Johnson.


Johnson then expressed his concern about how the county can clean up the lake developments when the whole southeast corner of a lake community (referring to Sugar Valley) hasn’t been mowed all summer long.

Johnson said, “They haven’t even mowed the hay off of that, lots of times you’ll see bales of hay laying on it this time of year.”


Wilson said that he knows that Sugar Valley mows their hay late in the year.


Hightower asked Johnson if he viewed the tall grass as a major issue.

Johnson said that it is an issue that he, as a taxpayer of Linn County, can’t go out there because he doesn’t own anything out there. So he isn’t allowed out there without being a guest to somebody.


Hightower explained that the county is policing private property with their regular nuisance regulations.


Johnson asked how can the county could choose to police here and not what is across the street.

Each district has its own regulations. If you read the zoning regulations, it says what you can and cannot do in each zoning district, said Wilson.

The nuisance regulations the county has now fit the other districts like agriculture, countryside, and residential but they do not fit the lake communities and unincorporated cities.

Wilson went on to say that each district had different regulations and conditional use permit rules.


Johnson said, “I’m not buying off on this.”


Thompson said, “As I said before, years ago the county did not get involved in doing any enforcement within the lake communities, and then a number of years ago because of pressure from the public, began to push us to do that.”

Johnson, “What commissioners? I talked to a commissioner who had been there quite a while and he said he had nothing to do with that. They did not want any part of it. I’ve got one and he would come and talk about it.”


Thompson replied, “Jim, if he wants to come in here and call me a liar, he can do that. That’s what you are doing right now.”


Thompson continued, “The commission made a decision over the years because of pressure from the public, they wanted to do some enforcement.“


Thompson said he did not care what the commission decided because it would make his life easier if the county did not enforce the lake communities.

Johnson told Thompson, “It makes you money if we do.”


Thompson said, “I am happy not to. If you think that’s what this is about, then you are offbeat.”


After Commission Chair Danny McCullough made the motion to accept the nuisance regulations, Hightower seconded and Johnson voted no, Johnson said, “You guys are just opening yourselves up for a lawsuit right here.”


Hightower replied, ”It’s no different than being on the commission with you, Jim.”


At present, there are two employee grievances filed against the county, specifically at Johnson.

Johnson warned McCullough and Hightower that they should read the regulations because they weren’t for the whole county.


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