May 27, 2021

Zoning ordinance: Worth County Zoning Commission chair ineligible for current position

Zachary Dupont | Globe Gazette | May 26, 2021 |

Based on Worth County’s zoning ordinance, Worth County Zoning Commission Chair Jeff Gorball is ineligible to serve on the Worth County Planning and Zoning Commission.

To serve on the Worth County Planning and Zoning Commission, you must be a resident of a zoned township within Worth County. This can be found in section XXIV, sub-section H, of the Worth County Zoning Ordinance: “All the members of the Planning and Zoning Commission shall be persons residing within the zoned townships of the county.”

The Globe Gazette confirmed through property tax records that Gorball lives in the township of Kensett, which is not one of Worth County’s zoned townships.

Gorball’s residency in a non-zoned township is a fact that has been known by members of the planning and zoning commission and the entirety of the Worth County Board of Supervisors for over a year now.

“It was brought to my attention when I first became zoning administrator the first part of the year,” Matt Duve, the Worth County Planning and Zoning Administrator, said. “From what I understand, the supervisors were OK with it for the time being.”

“Last year is when it was brought to my attention, and it was brought to the board’s attention by Jeff himself,” AJ Stone, a member of the Worth County Board of Supervisors, said. “So we continued to appointment (Gorball) even though he had brought that to our attention.”

Gorball’s residency in a non-zoned township is especially prevalent at the moment. Worth County has been locked in a discussion over the possibility of county-wide zoning due to the incoming Worthwhile Wind project. Currently, only three of Worth County’s 12 townships are zoned. The remaining nine townships, including Kensett, where Gorball resides, are not zoned.

Board of Supervisors member Mark Smeby admits that Gorball’s residency could be a conflict of interest.

“Personally, I feel it does a little bit,” Smeby said when asked if Gorball’s residency could prove to be a conflict of interest in ongoing discussions over county-wide zoning.

Stone disagreed with claims that Gorball’s presence on the board could provide a conflict of interest.

“I don’t think it’s a conflict at all, really,” Stone said. “(Gorball) has been involved with that same zoning process for a number of years. He’s a good candidate to have on there he knows what’s going on.”

Gorball has served on the planning and zoning commission for five terms, including a brief stint as interim administrator before taking on the role of commission chair. Gorball also served as a Worth County Board of Adjustments member before his time on planning and zoning.

The consensus from those who continued to let Gorball serve on the planning and zoning commission is that it’s difficult enough to find people to serve on county boards.

“Worth County is just an odd county, not having zoning through the whole county … it just makes it that much more difficult to get participation on these boards,” Duve said. “At this point, I’m just happy we have seats filled and someone who is willing to serve, to be honest.”

Despite not having taken action over this for over a year, the board of supervisors claims they will look into the matter.

“I think we will look into it, yes,” Stone said when asked if the board of supervisors plans on taking any action over Gorball’s presence on the planning and zoning commission. “Whether it’s find a replacement or amend our ordinance to follow state code and allow a couple of people from outside of those (zoned) townships.”

Worthwhile Wind is an Invenergy project that hopes to establish a 30,000-acre wind farm in Worth County. There has been pushback from some citizens of Worth County who don’t want the adverse effects of wind turbines, such as noise and flicker.

Those who support the project are worried that discussions over county-wide zoning will only drive business away in the future. Proponents of the project also point to the $4.8 million in tax revenue the project would bring in for infrastructure improvements across Worth County.

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