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  1. Versaland Farm - A permaculture and local government story. The story is ongoing. The following story has two sides and both appear to have some merit and strong points. I ask that all sides be weighed and that people work together to find real solutions if that is even possible after everything has happened. We here are about cultural healing and life and in that we all must learn to walk together, especially when our views and wants go in separate directions if such a thing can be achieved. The Versaland Call for Help https://permies.com/t/70332/Call-Action-Versaland-Farm-threatened When I learned of this yesterday my soul shed a tear and I felt a little less American than I ever did. However, as I said my soul shed a tear and this is kinda foolish as what we did to the American Indians so I will use the words less humanity now. So I will not pout and get in line behind them and put on my thinking hat! With that said lets us remember, their are two sides of a story and many perspectives to consider and this is not a cut and dry issue. Well let me stop here for a bit and let Versaland Farm tell their own story. More information to consider The Iowa Citizen Press Article Stephen Gruber-Miller, sgrubermil@press-citizen.comPublished 7:06 p.m. CT Sept. 11, 2017 | Updated 9:55 p.m. CT Sept. 11, 2017 http://www.press-citizen.com/story/news/local/2017/09/11/johnson-county-agricultural-zoning-versaland-grant-schultz-josh-busard/653692001/ Johnson County Re-Zoning Application Goes Viral https://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/planningBLUZ/2017/09/12/johnson-county-re-zoning-application-goes-viral/ September 12, 2017 Goto comments Leave a comment by Eric Christianson An Iowa City resident’s attempt to rezone 63 acres of rural Johnson County has attracted international attention. Grant Schultz manages a 143 acre farm he calls Versaland in northeastern Johnson County. He is seeking the zoning change to allow him to build rental cabins and worker housing in addition to other accessory uses. Staff recommended against the rezoning because of the potential impact of a large land use change in a rural part of the county and the infrastructural improvements that would be needed to support the potential new uses. On August 14 the planning and zoning commission voted 5-0 to recommend to the board of supervisors that the rezoning be denied. In response on September 8, Schultz created a 25 minute video with the headline “Johnson County Assaults Local Foods“. The video has, as of today, been viewed over 80,000 times and received comments of support from all over the world. Johnson County has since published a memo refuting many of the points made in the video. Additionally, Paul Durrenberger and Suzan Erem, founders of the Sustainable Iowa Land Trust, and owners of the property in question have published a blog post of their own entitled, “Grant Schultz: Facts to Consider”. They are opposed to the proposed rezoning. The Johnson County Board of Supervisors will vote on the rezoning request Thursday September 14, 2017. For more information read the Press Citizen article about the fight. As they say, always two sides of each story. I post this ethically to the story. The Other Side Johnson County Memo to the video https://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/planningBLUZ/files/2017/09/358643971-Johnson-County-responds-to-Grant-Schultz-s-video.pdf Date: Sept 8, 2017 To: Board of Supervisors From: Josh Busard, Director Re: Video Made by Grant Schultz regarding Rezoning Application 27281 On Sept. 8, 2017, Mr. Schultz posted an approximately 25-minute video on Facebook about his rezoning application 27281. In the video, a number of claims are made. The Planning, Development and Sustainability Department would like to provide a response. The application will be heard by the Johnson County Board of Supervisors at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 14, 2017. Part One of this memo will provide background and timeline for the application process to date. Part Two addresses topics, primarily by the order in which they were raised in the video. This is not meant to be a comprehensive review of the entire application that will be considered by the Board on September 14. PART ONE: TIMELINE AND BACKGROUND Grant Schultz submitted to Johnson County Planning, Development and Sustainability an application on July 11, 2017 to reclassify 62.54 acres from A-Agricultural to AR-Agricultural Residential for “diverse organic farm hosting education, fishing, camping, and cabins for agritourism.” The property at 5133 Strawbridge Road NE is owned by Edward Paul Durrenburger and Suzan Erem. The County believes that Mr. Schultz leases the farm, and intends to purchase it at the end of 2017. Mr. Schultz’s application was heard by the Johnson County Planning and Zoning Commission on August 14, 2017. Ms. Erem, as the property owner, stated at the meeting that she did not support Mr. Schultz’s rezoning application. In their report, staff recommended denial. The complete staff report is attached; however, here is an excerpt from the conclusion highlighting staff concerns: While a smaller-scale rezoning request at this location may be appropriate, staff is not comfortable recommending approval of this request as presented given the scale of potential development that could result from rezoning 62 acres of land to ARAgricultural Residential. Staff has significant concerns with how out-of-character a large scale development would be with the historical development patterns of Morse, and also with the potential impacts development could have on Strawbridge Rd, Putnam St, and the Strawbridge Rd bridge over Rapid Creek. These concerns exist not only in regards to a large-scale residential development, but also for the 36-unit rental cabin development at the site proposed by the applicant – staff would prefer to see a more measured and incremental approach to development of this site. The Planning and Zoning Commission voted 5-0 to deny approval. This vote serves as a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, which, as noted, will hear the application at its 5:30 p.m. formal meeting on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017 PART TWO: ADDRESSING CLAIMS MADE BY MR. SCHULTZ The following responses are relative to the order in which they were raised in the video. Retail Orchard / You-Pick Operations: The County has not banned retail orchards. However, on April 20, 2017, the County established a 12-month moratorium on the creation of new retail orchards (Res 04-20-17-01). “You-pick” farm operations are not part of the moratorium. Mr. Schultz at this time could invite the public to personally pick apples (or any other fruit, vegetables or nuts he grows on site) and buy them from him. Aqua-Culture: (“Fish Farms”): Fish Farms are considered agriculture in Johnson County. Mr. Schultz could raise fish on his property right now if he wanted to. If he wants to have a “fish your own” operation along with selling bait for others to fish, he would need to follow the same regulations others have and rezone the property to Agricultural Residential and get a conditional use permit. Morse Village Boundary and Plan: As Mr. Schultz’s states, the property is within the Morse village boundary. The County Land Use Plan (2008) directed the County to develop plans for each unincorporated village, including Morse. That directive include the following item: “Encourage sustainability within villages by promoting mixed-use developments that foster live/work arrangements which are appropriate for the village-area being considered.” Mr. Schultz claims he is supporting the Land Use Plan by fostering live/work arrangements. However, as seen above the goal statement goes on to mention that the live/work arrangements should be appropriate as determined by the Morse Village Plan. The Morse Village plan states: “Future housing stock should not conflict with historic village development.” Historically, the village has not grown from a population of approximately 85 people in the past 100 years, and the traditional growth area of the village is small-lot development along Putnam Road to the north. Development in Morse traditionally has been a mix of low-intensity commercial and residential uses. The build-out for the 62 acres, if zoned Agricultural Residential is as many as 50 homes before density bonuses (see staff report). Housing for Seasonal Agricultural Labor: Johnson County allows “seasonal agricultural camps” that must follow 14 requirements, including fire and other safety aspects. Strong regulation on temporary quarters for agricultural workers is necessary to ensure farm workers are not forced to live in sub-standard conditions just to work. It is true that the seasonal housing for agricultural workers is limited to June 1 and Sept. 15. There has been discussion about changing this time-period when the ordinance is reviewed. Mr. Schultz’s referenced a lawsuit. Staff has no direct knowledge of a lawsuit, but is fairly certain that there was a migrant camp in the late 1980s south of Lone Tree, and this camp necessitated the seasonal agricultural labor ordinance to protect farm workers. Responsiveness to Mr. Schultz: Staff have remained available by phone and email, as well as in person, to Mr. Schultz. The last in-person contact was August 31 Cost of Application and Project Scope: Prior to Mr. Schultz submitting the rezoning application dated July 11, Nate Mueller, Assistant PDS Director, emailed him on July 10, 2017, to caution him about requesting a rezoning while he was not the property owner, and moreover, the current owner had stated she was opposed to the rezoning. Specifically, Nate wrote: “You are welcome to request the rezoning even though you are not currently the deed holder, but in our experience when that kind of request comes through and the deed holder is opposed to the change, the Supervisors take that very heavily into account. I just want to make sure you’re aware of this potential issue before you commit $1400+ to the application filing fee.” In addition, Josh Busard, PDS director, had personal conversations with Mr. Schultz, where he recommended that the rezoning application be scaled down, and that it might be more appropriate to seek rezoning of eight (8) acres to better support his goal of obtaining a conditional use permit for his intended development (cabins, etc.). Mr. Schultz did not follow that advice, and he repeatedly stated that he needed to rezone the entire property because his timeline did not permit a subdivision application. Josh also told him that before any building permit, he would need a subdivision, but Mr. Schultz said he would address that later. Mr. Schultz indicated in the video that he wishes to have 14 cabins for resident farm workers and 22 for rental. This statement in the video is the first time staff have heard these specific details. Strawbridge Road and Infrastructure Costs: This road floods regularly as shown on the Flood Insurance Rate Map. The County’s Land Use Plan (2008) contains the following two policies: “Ensure transportation demands can be accommodated when evaluating rezoning requests” (p. 22). “Ensure that new residential areas are responsible for a share of development costs” (p. 23). The County has worked with property owners and developers to improve roads prior to development projects (e.g., Harry Ambrose on Curtis Bridge Road; Stringtown Grocery and Kalona Cheese Factory on 500th Street; S&G Materials on Isaak Walton; Celebration Farm (turn lanes) on Highway 1) Additionally, the County’s Floodplain Development Regulations states that “Subdivision proposals intended for residential development shall provide lots with a vehicular access that will remain passible during occurrence of the 100-year flood” – because of this, staff historically does not recommend approval of rezoning applications that do not meet this standard. The property in question does not meet this standard and staff does not feel that transportation demands can be accommodated without future road upgrades. County Historic Poor Farm: The property Mr. Schultz is requesting to rezone is in the unincorporated area of Johnson County, and thus subject to its regulations. The Johnson County Historic Poor Farm is located within the city limits of Iowa City, and is regulated under the City Zoning Ordinance. Contrary to Mr. Schultz’s claim, the County Farm is subject to zoning and other city regulations, and comparisons between the two is not a simple as presented in the video. County staff, the Board of Supervisors and consultants on the project have communicated with City staff about the many city regulations. Respectfully, Josh Busard Director Planning and Development & Sustainability As they say, always two sides of each story. I post this ethically to the story. Those who currently own the land are opposed, their view Grant Schultz – Facts to Consider http://dracohill.org/blog/grant-schultz-facts-to-consider/ We hope these documents that constitute every legal agreement and disagreement we’ve had with Grant Schultz over the last 4 years help clarify any misinformation floating around the internet. By the way, we own the property. So if you believe in property rights, you should allow us to do as we please with our own land, and we don’t want it rezoned as a resort. And for those who believe assertions that we are out to steal this farm from Grant and somehow get rich from it, rest assured – the annual payment is more than we make on our fixed income. We cannot afford this farm and never wanted to own it. We have given him every opportunity to purchase it from us and continue to do so. We regret having to engage Mr. Schultz because he has treated us like trash for 2 years, and posting this will only motivate him to do it again. We are sorry for the ill-will and anger he is stirring up against good people, including those elected by the people of Johnson County and those they appoint to enforce county ordinances. We apologize to our neighbors in Morse who have had to suffer livestock visiting their homes, yards, sheds and garages, cars parked along a road making it nearly impassable, guns going off at all hours of the night, the years-long saga to get a proper septic installed on this land that Rapid Creek runs through, the unkempt farmstead, the overgrown fences and more. But the time has come to stand up to this bully. We do so at great personal risk, including fear for our safety and fear that he will trash the farm we own out of spite and anger. But we have talked with more than a half dozen young farmers who’ve lived and worked at Schultz’s farm, and they all fear he will retaliate against them with his “worldwide network” on social media. Therefore, we must do the talking for them, and for all young farmers who have asked us not to let this man stand for them, because they are ashamed of what he is doing to us. Please read the documents and see where: We bought this farm to sell to him at the same price 5 years later, knowing the value would likely go up. We didn’t care. We wanted to help him get started. We give him the Farm Credit Services patronage rebate every year instead of keeping it. We paid $24,000 of a $32,000 high-powered livestock well (the other $8K coming from the government he so despises) that he now plans to use for his cabins instead for livestock, according to his testimony at the Planning and Zoning Commission. We gave him an additional $50,000 to purchase a building and install a septic system so he could live there legally. How we moved to terminate the lease when we learned the sheer number of violations he had committed of the document he wrote. How we moved to evict when he didn’t pay his rent – something every farmer in Iowa understands is the one thing you do no matter what – sticking us for the $52,000 payment to the lender last year. What’s not in the documents, so you don’t have to believe us but consider it food for thought: his threats to drag our names through the mud if we didn’t agree to what he wanted, how he has repeatedly misrepresented his rent per acre to make us sound like we were gouging him, how he has claimed that HE has poured hundreds of thousands into this property when the government and Paul and I paid for almost everything, how he gave his best helper three days’ notice for his 40 head of cattle and all the other livestock the man was tending, because Grant decided to change their arrangement and the man refused. how he uses his nursery to be a middleman, purchasing wholesale and selling retail to unsuspecting customers who likely thought he was selling trees he had grown himself. (He tried to convince us at one time to create the nursery business so he could “buy” from us in some kind of shell game we couldn’t understand). how he poses in front of paw paw trees and apple trees that aren’t his to make people believe his plants are fruiting when in fact they were still sticks that are barely leafing out and that there hasn’t been any livestock on the farm all summer. how all of this “shit storm” he promised to rain down on the board of supervisors is smoke and mirrors for the fact that he could buy this land from us today and hasn’t. Why hasn’t he? And why is he trying to rezone it before he owns it? We hope people who care about the truth can learn a few more facts and decide for yourselves. Thank you and we hope to see you at the Johnson County Board of Supervisors hearing Thursday, Sept. 14, 5:30 pm in the county administration building. Versaland’s hoop house, from the day it was built until today, has not grown a single vegetable. The building he bought with our money for himself and his interns – no insulation, thin walls. And piles of junk in overgrown weeds. The bee enterprise one volunteer took on fell apart like every other enterprise, not because of the government or onerous ordinances, but because of Grant Schultz. Almost every volunteer who has ever lived at Versaland has moved to another state and won’t speak up for fear of retaliation by Mr. Schultz. We set aside $50,000 so Grant could live on the farm legally, something we never anticipated because he said he would commute from his apartment in Coralville, but within months was living there illegally. He chose to buy this monstrosity and plant it directly in front of our neighbor’s picture window. The hoop house at Versaland – fronted by Paul Durrenberger because Grant had already used up the one he had coming to him at another failed farm – paid for by NRCS and never used for vegetable production. Bad fences make bad neighbors. Our neighbor, River Products, built this fence for us. Grant Schultz then trespassed on their property, added extensions, electrified them AND then let the fence get overgrown. This photo taken in 2016. These are some of the “100,000 trees” Grant Schultz claims to have planted and desperately needs workers for to harvest. Statements below are taken from the Press-Citizen Iowa newspaper http://www.press-citizen.com/story/news/local/2017/09/11/johnson-county-agricultural-zoning-versaland-grant-schultz-josh-busard/653692001/ My View & Opinion Is the versaland farm video wholly factual? Are the views of those involved directly factual? From where I sit and likely for all others we cannot truly tell so I offer my best to illustrate both sides and encourage positive solutions to a fruitful end. To me, my opinion is several aspects and I have seen similar behaviors by governments, internationally from Europe to America take this kind of action though in different industries and it was what I call a money grab. The current owners make a very strong case against this view and they appear to have much merit. I speak further generically due to their rebuttal and will accept an outcome that weighs this aspect. Unethical and unreasonable justification for road improvements, as I see it. However, the rebuttal in the memo has some legal merit. The town is attempting to make a similar type of farm and may appear to see this as competition. This may be more speculation. The town may see this farms value and by working to ensure it fails will likely be able to obtain the property and the book numbers are likely to be far cheaper to secure this type of farm for the town utilizing that tactic rather than building their own for which they have plans to build. This is the aspect I have seen in other industries internationally. The current owners speak on this but I still have seen similar situations so I cannot say with my opinion I wholly agree or disagree. This issue has become more diverse than how I first came to understand it. I hope all sides can sit down and work out solutions so that betterment can come. In these things, their are at many times no real villains and no real victims but emotion can cause varied illustrations that perhaps can stretch the truth. My interest is just a generic one. cultural healing and life and we must all work together correctly and wisely to do this. Sometimes things do not work out how we want and as fast as we may want but we must remain stern towards the direction in life we sail in. Sometimes the seas are choppy and sometimes smooth and what defines the type of captain we are is how we act under pressures and storms. I do not mean to throw gas on a fire and my blabbering will not help but I will say to look at the wily ape compilation we have made. I feel it will help explain this a bit if is what I fear is true. Specifically this section: http://culturalhealingandlife.com.www413.your-server.de/index.php?/topic/32-the-story-of-the-wily-ape-section-5-society-market-and-governance/ - I recommend the whole story of the wily ape but that section applies foremost. What to do? View all available information before deciding or truly forming an opinion or we may end up being the fool in the room. The following is from versaland. https://www.versaland.com/ To donate to their legal fight: https://secure.squarespace.com/commerce/donate?donatePageId=59b493056f4ca36cb5fc813d 1) Watch the ENTIRE Video. 2) SHARE the video on Facebook, Twitter, email, etc 3) WRITE AN EMAIL to the Supervisors. Contact list below. Share why you support the rezoning to AR, and how affordable farmworker housing, agritourism, and ecological businesses matter to you. Explain your connection to Versaland - as customer, student, or admirer - perhaps you've purchased plants, pastured meat, or engaged in the social fabric with a workshop or field day. If you're presently an admirer - share why you'd visit and how you'd benefit Johnson County while here. Share your unique perspective and engage respectfully, we're all humans.4) CALL IN PERSON Engage with a personal phone call and talk through why you value Versaland, how it adds to the quality of Johnson County, Iowa, and the social, economic, and ecological benefits it brings via land access, organic food, improved water quality, and climate and flood resilience. 5) ATTEND THE MEETING on Thursday, September 14th at 5:30PM, 913 S Dubuque Street, Iowa City, IA 52240 - Facebook event here Office Phone: 319-356-6000 Janelle Rettig 319-356-6000 email: jrettig@co.johnson.ia.us Kurt M. Friese 319-356-6000 kfriese@co.johnson.ia.us Mike Carberry Home: I do not feel correct about posting home numbers mcarberry@co.johnson.ia.us Rod Sullivan Home: I do not feel correct about posting home numbers e-mail:rsullivan@co.johnson.ia.us Lisa Green-Douglass (319) 936-0175 e-mail: lgreendouglass@co.johnson.ia.us RESOURCE DOWNLOADS Versaland Design (north half of farm) Poor Farm Design/"New Century Farm" ESTABLISHING A TEMPORARY 12 MONTH MORATORIUM ON THE ISSUANCE OF CONDITIONAL USE PERMITS FOR RETAIL ORCHARDS (Page 4) Retail Orchard Moratorium (Page 3) Versaland Zoning Application Johnson County Iowa Unified Development Ordinance Morse Village Plan 2011 Food Policy Council Recommendations for the 2018 Comprehensive Plan Johnson County Greenwashing Report Allowing Country Inns as a Conditional Use in the A, AR, & R Zoning Districts: 09-19-13-Z2 09/19/2013 Planning, Development, and Sustainability Staff Opinion (8/11/17 opinion) Lawsuit Evincing Purchase Agreement in 2016 Johnson County Board of Supervisors What I think to do. As they are a small town. Lets gather the funds and legal representation and be willing to go to the supreme courts if necessary. Perhaps find some help from the ACLU or other pro-bono legal representation. This not only brings the legal fight to the courts. It can work to bleed them back financially as they hope to do them (my view on that) and this can have a big impact on the towns finances potentially causing their taxes and fees to increase upsetting their voting base. Get politically involved placing candidates and work to actually get correct people to run against this type of town management direction. Speak at all public events possible and join the same political party as to gain voter information as then you can talk directly to their base. Informing them correctly can do much and also brings a certain pressure they like underestimate. Contact the businesses that support those local politicians and ask them to explain why they support such efforts and make that public, they likely will not speak back if they do not support this can lead to public pressure. I do not advocate boycotts or anything like that, just discussion in attempt to gain support. Enough pain. Let the courts, education, ethics and morals win the day. All that said, I hope they all sit down and genuinely work together to find realistic solutions but also this will likely be a give and take. Lets not fight, lets work together and do something great! One Drop Forward sings us out! One Drop Forward - Knowledge - Message Video Thank you for your time and energies, JJ the Gardener. ~Cultural Healing and Life.
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