With the city and county lacking power to enforce the extraterritorial zone, it's been dubbed No man's land by David Lias No man's land.
That's how County Commission Chairman Jerry Sommervold describes a two-mile wide area around Vermillion.
The Vermillion City Council agreed to form a committee made up of city and county government leaders to identify effective solutions to problems that have begun to crop up in this area.
The no man's land inner boundary is Vermillion's territorial limits, which exceed the city limits by one mile. Its outer boundary is Vermillion's three-mile zoning limit.
In between is a two-mile wide stretch of county land surrounding the city that apparently is immune to zoning ordinances of both the city and the county.
The county commission is growing concerned about the inability of either governing entity to enforce ordinances relating to zoning, health and safety in this two-mile wide ring around the city.
"The city has a problem of not having any codes that they can enforce beyond the one-mile limit outside of the city limits of Vermillion," Sommervold told the Vermillion City Council Monday. "The city, some years ago, decided to go with the three-mile extraterritorial zone to govern for orderly growth. What we became aware of is that we have a two-mile area out there that's a no man's land."
Sommervold told the city council that Clay County has no jurisdiction to enforce county ordinances and zoning ordinances inside the three-mile limit.
"And the city appears not to have any (ordinances) to deal with outside of one mile, so we have all these people inside this two-mile zone that are sort of in limbo out there with really no enforceable codes or ordinances they have to live by," he said.
Vermillion Code Enforcement Officer Farrel Christensen told aldermen that Sommervold's description of the problem is keenly accurate.
"It's a tough situation," Christensen said. "The state gives us the ability to extend our jurisdiction out one mile, but does limit it to that mile. But, as Jerry said, the county is limited as to what they can do within that three mile limit."
Now, with both the county's and city's code enforcement abilities limited in that area, problems are beginning to crop up.
"We've got somebody on Greenfield Road that really does need some attention. It's a pretty serious problem, and neither one of us can address that problem," Christensen said. "We really need to come to some kind of an agreement. We need some help, we need to do something with this guy to improve the conditions out there for the neighborhood."
"A group of folks that live in that no man's land out there came to us, and they're kind of stymied, because there's nothing we can do to solve these problems because we do not have the jurisdiction inside that three mile zone," Sommervold said. "And they came to Farrel with the same problem, and he can't help them because he can't get outside that one mile zone."
Sommervold suggested three options for aldermen to consider:
* They could eliminate the three mile extraterritorial zone;
* They could reduce the city's zoning limit to the one mile beyond the city limits where they currently have zoning authority; or
* The city council could formulate ordinances that would be effective in "no man's land."
Sommervold reminded the council that the reason that the state allowed municipalities to adopt a one mile territorial limit and a three mile zoning limit "is so incorporated municipalities would have a say and governing controls over orderly growth as their cities expand out into this zone.
"The city of Vermillion chose to adopt the three mile zone," he added.
Sommervold said the county commission has discussed the possibility of the city reducing its extraterritorial zone down to one mile.
"It's your option; it's your decision to make. Actually, we wouldn't have to make any change. Our zoning ordinances and laws and rules come into the extraterritorial zone," he said. "But we aren't allowed by law to come inside of it and enforce it. So if you change it from three miles out down to one mile out, it's automatic that we would come down to the one mile boundary (with our ordinances)."
Mayor Roger Kozak volunteered to be part of a committee that also includes Christensen, City Attorney Martin Weeks, City Manager Jeff Pederson, County Zoning Administrator David Wherry, State's Attorney Tami Bern and County Commissioner Bill Willroth Sr.
"I would suggest that the committee discuss the one mile limit versus the three mile limit, what the impact is on the county, what the impact is on the city," Kozak said, "and then perhaps bring back a recommendation to the council. Obviously there are some pros and cons to this for both sides."