Mueller leaves a strong legacy for county board

David Mueller has stepped down from the county?s Board of Zoning Appeals and Planning Commission after 12 years. Commissioner Dan Holub says of Mueller: ?He epitomizes the statement, ?One person can make a difference."Some of the most important people in any community are those who volunteer to serve on boards for the best interest of the public.

One such person is David Mueller of Tampa. After a 12-year run of serving on the Marion County Board of Zoning Appeals and Planning Commission, he will turn over the reins to someone else.

Marion County Commissioner Dan Holub said the county is better off because of Stone?s leadership, perseverance and genuine concern for the county and its residents.

?He epitomizes the statement, ?One person can make a difference,?? Holub said.

For Mueller, his stint on the two boards began after he had approached the board with a concern.

?I was wanting to renovate an old abandoned farmstead and went to the commission asking to put a single-wide mobile home on the property.

?At that time,? he said, ?it was not allowed in the county.?

Even though it wasn?t in the regulations, Mueller said he still presented his case and was given a variance or exception from the rule that allowed him to have the mobile home while he was rebuilding.

?No one had lived in the house for 10 years. It was dilapidated and had very little tax income for the county,? he said.

Mueller said he wanted to renovate it and make it into a working farmstead, but he also wanted to live there while the place was under construction.

?The board agreed to grant the variance,? he said.

Along with a lot of paperwork, the variance required Mueller to put up a bond with the county as co-owner of that account.

?It was a legitimate concern,? he said, regarding the bond. ?The problem was in other counties, too.

?People would move in and then walk away leaving a real eyesore, and then who cleans it up??

Three months after receiving a variance, Mueller agreed to serve on the board.

He said he decided to do his part in making the system better.

After becoming a board member, Mueller said the regulations were changed regarding single-wide mobile homes on property.

?Now, there is a regular process?a timeline and follow-up inspection,? he said, ?and it is a more logical approach.?

It also removed the challenges younger families faced when helping older generations.

?In several cases, people were wanting to renovate abandoned farmsteads, but to do that they almost needed to live there,? he said, adding that driving back and forth, security and efficiency were among the hardships.

Introducing changes

Mueller summarized his 12 years on the board as three phases.

The first involved the planning commission?s approachability.

?It is much more friendly and we always work to find solutions,? he said.

Much of the credit for all the changes, he said, should go Tonya Richards as director/administrator and the board as a whole.

The second phase involved completely rewriting the regulations.

?The original regulations were basically from urban areas,? he said. ?We went through (the original regs) line by line about two or three years ago.?

In order to complete the task, Mueller said the board met twice a month to finish the process.

?The result is that we now have a much better and more workable system in place,? he said.

Putting together a wind overlay district for wind farm was another two- to three-year process.

?Finding the right location in the county, being fair to existing landowners and looking at other counties to see what they were doing was part of the process,? he said.

The board also needed to look for lower populated areas, but ones that had a higher wind potential, he said.

Other factors included making sure good roads were in place so that workers with materials could have easier access.

?We also talked to a number of outside experts and visited some places to see how their regulations were working,? Mueller said.

For Mueller, and the rest of the board, it was quite an undertaking.

?To me, it was really a good example of planning ahead and when the application came in maybe five years ago after the regs were in place, that application probably took close to 10 hours to get through,? he said.

But, when it was done, Mueller said every single question was answered and every concern was addressed.

?With the regs in place, we had the template to go by and knew the questions to ask. The applicant also knew the questions to answer,? he said.

Planning Commission

Following all the changes, updates and additions to the regulations, Mueller said, a lot of the duties can now be addressed by Richards.

?Under the old regs, someone needed 40 acres to build a house (in the county),? he said. ?If you wanted to build a house in Marion County, you had to have 40 acres and there were a lot of issues with that.?

Under the new regulations, he said that has been significantly reduced.

Now if someone wants to build a new home in the county, it is five acres, Mueller said, adding if it is an existing farmstead, he believes it is three acres.

?Five acres provides enough separation distance and a lot less acres to maintain. It also allows someone starting out to get in it for a lot less money.?

Mueller did say that any new construction that includes building a house or shed does require a building permit.

?Go to the zoning administrator?s office and get the building permit,? he said.

?(Richards) will confirm how many acres you have, setback distances.?

If anyone is doing something that does not match up with the regs in those areas, he said, then one must apply for variance or come to the planning commission.

?But again the regs are more reasonable, and (people coming to the commission) doesn?t seem to happen very often.?

The early years

When Mueller first volunteered to serve on the board 12 years ago, he said every meeting dealt with three or four cases, which would go until late into the evening.

?In fact, this year we only had five meetings and just a handful of cases with a lot of those cleaning up sites that are an issue.?

Things are working better, he said.

?We are not having issues of junkyards or abandoned trailer houses, and we are cleaning that up and yet making the system better.?

Holub agreed.

?I give the majority of the credit to (Mueller) for making zoning work in Marion County.

?He?s taken it from marathon, contentious meetings to boring meetings, which is awesome.?

Two boards

When people need to meet with the board, Mueller explained that the board serves on two separate entities, according to state statute.

They are members of both the Board of Zoning Appeals and Planning Commission, but both are quite different.

According to Mueller, the planning commission makes ?recommendations? to county commission concerning conditional use permits and rezoning.

The board of zoning appeals takes ?final action? and grants variances to the regulations.

?That is the difference between the two, he said.

Mueller resigned his position at the board?s meeting Dec. 5, Holub said.

As for the board, terms are three years, he said, but there is no limit on how many terms someone can serve.

?Commissioners in their district reappoint (the existing member) or appoint someone else.

?We have plenty of good people,? Mueller said, ?and I am going to miss them.?

Continuing members

With Mueller?s resignation after 12 years, there remains is a good mix of members on the Marion County Board of Zoning Appeals and Planning Commission.

?We have older members with history, some newer members with new ideas and some in the middle who are learning,? he said.

In District 1, which is western Marion County and Roger Fleming?s district, members include Don Mount, a city employee in Hillsboro; Marty Dalke, owner of a construction business outside Hillsboro, and Brad Vannocker, a farmer in Goessel.

In District 2, which is Dan Holub?s district, the members include Derek Belton, who replaced Mueller.

Belton is a young farmer who moved back to the area. Other members are Jeff Bina and Nick Kraus, both producers.

In District 3, which is southern Marion County and Randy Dallke?s district, members include Jim Schmidt, ag-related of Goessel, and Mary Avery, a retired teacher of Peabody.

?There has been an opening in Randy?s district that hasn?t been filled,? Mueller said.

For those interested, qualifications to become a board member, according to Mueller, include being interested in the county?s land use, being willing to put in the time and being curious.

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