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MLS live steam community

Many of us share a common bond in general through the brotherhood of live steamers. There are times that reaching out to others with a hobby interest in live steam would benefit them as well as a the hobby in general. (as far as I know this has not been post). We all know the economical stress of today make many things much more important and of a higher priority but all of us need help in different ways and under different circumstances as Ray has expressed.

I recall a similiar case in NJ were a person was selling Xmas trees and we used to ride is 1.5 gauge around the property to the trees. The NJ State officials decided is was an amusement ride and require permit, insurance and regulations to utilize the train with the business. I could see the Richardson's having to undergo such rules and regulations if it was a business, club or organization but not for private property and a group of friends.

TAC sent me an email about the Richardson's in Oregon and their ordeal cause by public servants who feel it necessary to impose their power upon private property as well as on a person's hobby. That is not to say that the Richardson's could have prevented a few problems but to cease operations and be told that their personal venue is not a hobby is out of line. If one is so incline to assist and/or support a fellow live steam then read on....

Here is the Richardson's web site:
http://members.peak.org/~kmr3/M&LKRailroad/htmls/viewworks.html

A general overview:
From: Ray Robinson
Sent: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 1:00 PM
To: Undisclosed-Recipient:;
Subject: Railroad Ray's Rants
Hi friends

Meadows & Lake Kathleen Railroad Versus Lane County Land Use Management and the State of Oregon.

In a scuffle with Big Brother, one cannot have enough friends nor can these "lost" government souls receive enough letters. Here is a letter I composed yesterday and sent out to a few folks. If you would like to help a bit, I would appreciate you sending this on to others who might be outraged at what our "civil servants" are trying to do to our Private Property Rights and I am quite sure just a small dose of what is happening all over OUR country. A letter or two wouldn't hurt either as these good people have to be made aware that people even outside Oregon care.

To my friends and also friends I have not yet met, I extend a handshake and a thank you for taking the time to investigate this situation of our hobby on private property versus intrusive government regulations. A bit of background:

We are totally surrounded by National Forest and our nearest neighbor is 1 1/2 miles away over two ridges. Our house and railroad are 3/4 of a mile up our gravel driveway from the paved county road and cannot even be seen nor heard from that road. You can not find us without a map and nothing at the entrance gives any clue that a railroad is near. No one in Deadwood will tell any stranger where we live so we cannot even be found by driving around. We are a totally private railroad, my lifelong hobby, built for me and my friends and we run the train for invited guests on most Sunday afternoons and have never charged for rides or visits. There has never been a complaint filed and the county is pursuing this issue strictly for money and power in the name of inturpretreted land use rules.

Lane County Land Use is ultimately governed but our 5 county commissioners. Our patron saint is Bill Fleenor, who as a county commissioner has actually driven spikes at work days on our railroad. Another commissioner is a friend of 25 years, Pete Sorenson, and he has visited. The other 3..................well...........they need some work, hence our problem.

We have been on OPB and HGTV (worldwide) as well as countless newspapers and magazines and the TV show "Little People- Big World" are filming one of their episodes here next month..........

A jealous friend (I know who) turned us in to the county for my hobby a year ago and then again in October for not having proper building permits. We went through a bunch of trials last year and I thought we prevailed. Then someone (actually a couple people) higher up in county decided to try and make some big money for the county while whipping us. (they want $6,000 right now just for the first two permits of many to come with no garuntees we will come out in the end with a railroad). I really have no idea why or who or what the real reason is but it seems to me that some people who's wages we pay have forgotten what we hired them to do and in the name of the letter of the law instead of the purpose of the law, are abusing their power for money and control. Keep in mind as you read this that I have told these people that I only want to keep my railroad alive for 4 years and then I am willing to remove it.

What most folks (especially those in power) have a hard time understanding is my railroad is a hobby and not or ever will be about money. I started collecting rail and wheels for a railroad in the early 70's, moving 13,000 pounds of rail seven times before finally finding the right land to build upon. I started construction of the railroad in June of 1996 with the blessing of 5 Oregon and Federal Fish and Game people as well as the USFS who we had to trade land with and completed it in October 2007. I have realized my dream and fulfilled what I set out to do so many years ago. I never intended to make money with it nor leave it as a perpetual monument to myself. I don't mind doing all the maintenance to keep the railroad and park (40 hours a week) pristine for a few years but can't see having to go earn money, so I can buy materials and then come home to work repairing and maintaining the railroad much beyond the time I turn 70 (4 years from now). When all this crap started happening, if it was only me, I would have removed the railroad and sold it last year. Thing is, I owe all those folks who worked on it, and helped it become a reality, some time to enjoy it. Now that the county and to some degree, the state is telling me I cannot have a hobby on my own property (because they say it is to big to be a hobby) it becomes an issue of principle. Private property land use rights against an ever evading government who's nose it seems is in everybody's business nowadays with money and control dictating their motives.

Land use zoning law were enacted to protect the land and the people from the unscrupulous few who would rape and plunder the planet to enrich their selves, at the peril of the few. Those who would fill the wetlands, mine the earth and divide the properties for the all mighty dollar, What Kathy and I have done here is take a 73 year old cow farm with no shade on the class one creek who's timber was plundered by the previous owner who also killed anything that walked or flew, into a natural habitat for humanity and wildlife with a train running through it so lots of people of various degrees of physical abilities can enjoy God's creation with minimal impact to the environment.

F-1 Land Use Code does not prohibit a hobby or a railroad and the code is up to the interpretation of a few civil servants on what they think can be done with the land. Legally, according to them, I can make this place into a rock quarry, build a hunting lodge on it, rape the land and cut all the timber, but not, it seems, be allowed to restore it to natural beauty and live in harmony with nature while having fun.

Sorry about the ranting and raving, but sometimes those people we elected or hired to represent us and even pay, have lost the way and need to be but back in their place. There is a lot more to what is going on here than I can put in place in an email and if "Lane" county (where I reside) isn't careful, I think they could end up looking stupid in the national news and that hurts all residents.

I have done nothing wrong, with the exception of not getting the proper permissions and neglecting to get what they extort from us in the form of building permits on MY OWN PROPERTY. These permits and law were meant to protect the land and people, not hinder them.

I will leave you with this fact..........I turned the entire matter over to God and pray his will be done. God gave me the land, the desire to build the railroad and the friends who helped build it and if He takes it away, it is only because their is something out there that is so much better, so much bigger. that I can't even imagine it at this point in time but I have to do my part to, hence this letter.

We do have possible help at a higher spot on the food chain. Oregon State Senator Bill Morresette has agreed to place a bill before the senate exempting us from all county and state zoning laws and ordinances for 5 years. It is with the legislative legal people right now making sure the wording and motive are OK, then it will be submitted and made public. I have read it and it is GOOD! While I am not holding my breath, the idea did come from our Lane County Commissioner friend and the good Senator himself.

Feel free to express your thoughts to these civil servants. Snail mail letters will help to the Gov and Sec of State and email to the rest. A Cc: to me would be cool to.

Theodore R. Kulongoski, Oregon Governor
State Capitol Bldg., 900 Court St. NE, Suite 254,
Salem 97301-4047
Kate Brown Secretary of State
136 State Capitol, Salem 97310-0722; 503-986-1523 Oregon State Senators

Sen. Bill Morresette (Dem)
[email protected]

Sen. Joanne Verger (DEM)
E-Mail: [email protected]

Sen. Peter Courtney (DEM)
[email protected]
Oregon State Representatives
Rep. Brian L. Clem (DEM)
[email protected]
Rep. Jean Cowan (DEM)
[email protected] Lane County Land Use Manager
[email protected]

Land County Land Use Supervisor
[email protected]

[email protected] Lane county commissioner on our side

Sen. Jeffery A. Merkley (DEM)
E-Mail: [email protected]
 

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Interesting reading.

The problem appears (from dealings with similar situations, but I am not a lawyer, nor know Oregon law) to be two things (listed as three in the note):

He did build something in a watershed without permits, but this appears to have been handled. There are a lot of people in this boat, for example, off the top of my head, much of the area around me and Columbus, OH both have such overlays, but many do not know about them unless they pull a permit.

The second is impact and land use, while he states he is not "open to the public", the areial photos include two parking areas and access roads, then his photos on his (accessable to the public) website and message states that he has had up to 250 people onsite and he has been on two TV networks. The county's fear then for the land use/events are the amount of people on the land, traffic on the roads, water, runoff, etc. that are needed to support this and the impact on the land that is not zoned for such use.

Actually, from other zoning and land use situations I have seen in the past, the requests from the county look reasonable. Afteall, imagine being on the other side of the fence and living down the road when 100 odd cars show up one weekend.....
 

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Having read the web site...the complaint from the county...and the rebutal, I think "ride on" GRR folks should look at this closely...and maybe regular G "scale" GRRers. It seems to me that what's happening here is applicable to most of the United States due to how the laws in Oregon are written.

I won't discuss the reparian issues...as they've been delt with by Mr. Richardson through the proper authorities.

1. Regarding the zoning issues...the complaint says "It has been DETERMINED....that the railroad...is beyond an "accessory" to the residential use of the property. Then it does a THEREFORE, that states there is a zoning violation on going. Horse pucky...as long as the Richardson's really live there and don't charge anyone for anything related to riding the railroad, it's a residence. If money was charged to ride the railroad, I would think that would make it a business operation in a residential area..and that IS a zoning violation. Then again, how many of us know of business operations being conducted from residential homes near us.

If the Richardson's maintain this property as their primary residence, I would think that this zoning violation aspect of the complaint could be quashed by the local planning commission.

2. Regarding the state considering the railroad to be an "amusement ride"...Mr. Richardson might be in the wrong...and so might be anyone in the US regarding ownership of a "ride on railroad"...because the Oregon Law (http://www.cbs.state.or.us/external/bcd/rules_statutes/compilations/2007_ors/460.pdf .... see section 310 on page 8) defines an Amusement Ride as ....any...device...moving on....rails...that is used to convey...individuals...for amusement. Then, very unfortunately, it says that no one can operate an "Amusement Ride" without a permit from the State of Oregon. That's a literal gotcha.

One can read the statute and easily see it was intended for carnival operators and such...because the FIRST definition on an Amusement DEVICE includes a stupulation that it exists to generate REVENUE...MONEY. Clearly, a hobby railroad that doesn't charge for rides won't fall under this definition. UNFORTUNATELY, when the subsequent permitting section (ORS 460.320) part was drafted...it said OR between Ride and Device...not AND. If it had said AND....the statute would have said "No person shall operate an amusement ride AND device without a valid operation permit therefore...." Since the railroad cars and engines are NOT "Amusement devices" per the definition, there would be NO permit violation even though IT IS an "Amusement Ride" as defined in the statute.

The fix here is to get the legislature to change the law...and make ORS 460.320 read as I said above with the word AND....and not OR. An alternative approach is to get the lot rezoned into something where the railroad would be OK.
3. Regarding the Events complaint...I think this is a stretch of the planning commissions authority. Basically as I read this ( http://www.leg.state.or.us/07orlaws/sess0300.dir/0354.htm ;)" src="http://www.mylargescale.com/DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/wink.gif" align="absMiddle" border="0" />, the statute regulates land use decisions by the planning commissions...and places where "events" are held WITHOUT a Special Use Permit being issued are determined by this law as impacting the "land use"...and are therefore regulatable...and require inspection...and insurance. If a Special Use Permit is sought and granted, I'm NOT sure the planning commission has any authority if I'm reading this right....then again, that's another can of worms...especially regarding inspection and insurance requirements for Special Use Permits. Again, I'm seeing the planning departments use of this statute as a stretch...and the proper way to fix this is a change to the law.


All in all, I think the Richardson's are screwed pursuing their complaint this way. They need to convince someone in the state legislature to change the law to specifically address (their term) "hobby railroads" in a form that benefits them...and hurts no one. I must say, I would NOT think one could build trestles and bridges and lifting mechanisms, etc without a proper building permit since their failure would constitute a safety hazard. That's why building permits came about.

4. Regarding my thoughts on how this complaint could effect GRRers...it's the Event part that bothers me...as it seems to say that IF you open your GRR up to club visits or such, you MIGHT be opening yourself up to land use regulation by the planning commission if you DON'T get the "event" authorized through a Special Use Permit. This is a MEGA stretch of that law...but you never know.
 

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All I can say is, what a waste, but totally typical of the shift in attitude in the U.S. So much for private property rights, we all must conform and serve the "greater good" as prescribed and defined by those who know what's best for us.
 

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Posted By Spule 4 on 03/19/2009 1:02 PM
Interesting reading.

The problem appears (from dealings with similar situations, but I am not a lawyer, nor know Oregon law) to be two things (listed as three in the note):

He did build something in a watershed without permits, but this appears to have been handled. There are a lot of people in this boat, for example, off the top of my head, much of the area around me and Columbus, OH both have such overlays, but many do not know about them unless they pull a permit.

The second is impact and land use, while he states he is not "open to the public", the areial photos include two parking areas and access roads, then his photos on his (accessable to the public) website and message states that he has had up to 250 people onsite and he has been on two TV networks. The county's fear then for the land use/events are the amount of people on the land, traffic on the roads, water, runoff, etc. that are needed to support this and the impact on the land that is not zoned for such use.

Actually, from other zoning and land use situations I have seen in the past, the requests from the county look reasonable. Afteall, imagine being on the other side of the fence and living down the road when 100 odd cars show up one weekend.....


Time I butted in on this, and then I'll leave. I know the Richardsons, and I've been there, rain and shine. This case has has resonance wherever folks play with big trains in return for the pleasure of seeing other people's pleasure.
It's a malady called 'Scrooge's Malevolence', and it's one that folks with exalted opinions of their opinions catch the moment their feet cross into county hall - anywhere.


So let's just clear up a few points that you've made, possibly unwittingly, as I'm certain there is no malice in your response - in particular your last sentence -

a. The Richardsons live one and half miles from ANY other human habitation

b. They live at the end of their own 3/4 mile-long drive which leads from a pretty run-down country road [sorry, Lane County road engineers, but it's true].

c. To see the plot the way you have, you HAVE to be looking from overhead - there is no way that anyone can see it without climbing the nearby surrounding mountais - around 2000 feet high BTW...and all the surrounding scenery belongs to them anyhow. The outside road goes past what looks like any other farm entrance. No publicity there.

d. He did not ask to go on TV. Oregon Public Broadcast [OPB], like many a state information service, goes actively looking for stories of interest to Oregonians, and anybody else, who like us, spend a lot of time there. Ray and Kathy agreed, not for the publicity, but to show how a couple of folks can dream and make it come true in their own bit of heaven, and believe me, that's what it looks like there.

If you lived in Oregon, had a plot of land this big, and DIDN'T have parking space like they do, there would be something seriously wrong with you. Our little plot in Ontario has easy parking for about 2-300 cars just around the house, I dare say, let alone nearby on the 1200 acres my family farms there.

The point is that officialdom has gone bats here, bad feeling is being generated by the bucketload, and some of the the folks in county hall - Bill Fleenor excepted [thanks for the support, Bill] seem to have forgotten that they are PUT there.

Looking at this simplistically and from a selfish POV, I really don't give a hoot whether you support this wholly American thing that Ray and Kathy are doing, or not. I live, most of the time, almost six thousand miles from the Meadows and Lake Kathleen Railroad.

But I'd miss it like heck if it wasn't there, and believe that all of us would be just that little bit poorer because two ordinary folks having lost THEIR dream.

Isn't that what America is all about?

tac
www.ovgrs.org
 

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I find this pretty amazing! My in-laws are Oregonians and from what I have seen in southern Orygun planning/zoning is pretty lax or non-existant. I wonder if there is more going on here than we know.

Jack
 

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I don't know anything about this case except the Richardson's side. That line in the letter about "a jealous friend turned me in" gives me pause though. Their letter makes it sound like a case of government gone crazy, and the letter mentions a battle against "big brother," but I wonder if there are not other parties to this issue who are pressuring the govt. to act. I wonder what's going on with the "jealous friend?"

I'm not arguing the Richardson's are in the wrong, not at all. I don't know enough about it. All I have is their complaint, which, not surprisingly, makes it seem like they are the victims of a vast injustice. Which perhaps they are. But before I enlist myself in their cause, I would need to hear the counter argument. Looking at that letter, I have a feeling there is a neighbor/neighbors pressuring the local govt. with complaints.
 

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The moral to this story is.........get the proper permits in advance or.........don't let anyone know what you are doing.
 

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Posted By tacfoley on 03/20/2009 3:49 AM
Posted By Spule 4 on 03/19/2009 1:02 PM
Interesting reading.

The problem appears (from dealings with similar situations, but I am not a lawyer, nor know Oregon law) to be two things (listed as three in the note):

He did build something in a watershed without permits, but this appears to have been handled. There are a lot of people in this boat, for example, off the top of my head, much of the area around me and Columbus, OH both have such overlays, but many do not know about them unless they pull a permit.

The second is impact and land use, while he states he is not "open to the public", the areial photos include two parking areas and access roads, then his photos on his (accessable to the public) website and message states that he has had up to 250 people onsite and he has been on two TV networks. The county's fear then for the land use/events are the amount of people on the land, traffic on the roads, water, runoff, etc. that are needed to support this and the impact on the land that is not zoned for such use.

Actually, from other zoning and land use situations I have seen in the past, the requests from the county look reasonable. Afteall, imagine being on the other side of the fence and living down the road when 100 odd cars show up one weekend.....


Time I butted in on this, and then I'll leave. I know the Richardsons, and I've been there, rain and shine. This case has has resonance wherever folks play with big trains in return for the pleasure of seeing other people's pleasure.
It's a malady called 'Scrooge's Malevolence', and it's one that folks with exalted opinions of their opinions catch the moment their feet cross into county hall - anywhere.


So let's just clear up a few points that you've made, possibly unwittingly, as I'm certain there is no malice in your response - in particular your last sentence -

a. The Richardsons live one and half miles from ANY other human habitation

b. They live at the end of their own 3/4 mile-long drive which leads from a pretty run-down country road [sorry, Lane County road engineers, but it's true].

Looking at this simplistically and from a selfish POV, I really don't give a hoot whether you support this wholly American thing that Ray and Kathy are doing, or not. I live, most of the time, almost six thousand miles from the Meadows and Lake Kathleen Railroad.

Isn't that what America is all about?

tac
www.ovgrs.org



Tac-, hope all finds you well, did you ever find those Marklin passenger cars?

There is a similar situation to this that, a friend has a small dog kennel, where I board my dog. He is at the very end of an unimproved conutry lane. One of the neighbors complained to the county and he had to have an "impact study" of the traffic to his property.

The flip side is the little county lane dotted with a few 1500 square foot and less houses from the 1800s-1970s ended up getting a bunch of $500-600K McMansions put on it, and no traffic study for those (and the construction trucks that actually blew out the subgrade in one turn) houses (probably who reported him) needed to be done.

America is about doing what it is you want to do, as long as your neighbor does not do what they want to do. Case in point my neighbors hate it when we get out the go-kart, as their dogs run past the electric shock fence, and I hate it when they smoke pot and skeet shoot over the front yard....
 

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The second is impact and land use, while he states he is not "open to the public", the areial photos include two parking areas and access roads, then his photos on his (accessable to the public) website and message states that he has had up to 250 people onsite and he has been on two TV networks. The county's fear then for the land use/events are the amount of people on the land, traffic on the roads, water, runoff, etc. that are needed to support this and the impact on the land that is not zoned for such use.


I have sympathy for the Richardsons, and I have a slightly different perspective to offer.

In 2003 Hurricane Isabel came roaring up the Chesapeake and trashed my house and garden railroad. In order to sell the property (we decided we couldn't afford to build a new house,) I had to get building permits approved.

The property was in a waterfront 'critical area', much like the Richardsons Class 1 stream. Consequently, it was much more difficult to get approval - the planning code was/is designed to prevent development in the 'critical areas', in part because of the public outcry when big developers (who are the ones giving money to the county politicians' re-election campaigns,) wanted to trash the wetland and build another new block of condos on the water, ignoring the impact on the indigenous wildlife, etc.

On the face of it, I met the same kind of bureaucratic hassling that the Richardsons have now experienced, but as I was only trying to rebuild my own house in legal fashion, I felt I had right on my side (and I had nothing else to do,) so I kept a positive outlook and tried to see the situation from their perspective so I could 'help' them to help me. I concluded that, in most cases, they were trying to do a CYA, to prevent a future lawsuit or setting a precedent. In other words, it wasn't personal, but they were hamstrung by the complex regulations and the wider possibilities if they granted me some clearance that others might drive a bus through.

In particular, I had a fight with FEMA over some $15,000 which they had granted me as part of the flood insurance, and then wanted back as I hadn't demolished the house. [I was keeping it erect in case the local planning guys wanted to see it.] We had lots of back and forth, but they kept quoting the letter of the law, which said I could keep the money if I demolished the house within 6 months, or something. Again, I didn't think they were trying to be unhelpful, but they had no mechanism for just picking up the phone and saying, "Look, Mr Thornton, our hands are tied.."

The Richardsons problem is that they are asking the local planners to grant an exemption. What happens if a logging company decides to plow a few logging roads and destroy some of the wetland on that same stream? Is that different in terms of impact - the Richardsons clearly moved some flora and fauna to make their railroad.

And it having been brought to everyones attention, they now have to cope with the regulations designed to stop people from killing themselves. The building code people are scared that if they turn a blind eye to the railroad, someone may get hurt and the county or the state may be sued for allowing someone to build an unsafe (i.e. = unapproved) facility. Again, it's the precedent issue. If the logging company later built a trestle over the stream to get the logs out and it fell, killing two workers, there'd be an outcry. Why is the Richardsons' railroad trestle any different (in the eyes of the county folk trying to keep their jobs.)

My solution was to try and get up-close-and-personal with the planners, so I could be seen as a human being and not someone looking for a waiver or a precent-setting revision to the code. I was down at the planning office pressing my case once a week. I noticed that there were several porfessionals who worked for the developers and who were in there every day. They worked for the developers and were on close personal terms with the folk who approved the permits.

Given the scope of the Richardsons problem, I would suggest getting the law changed to exempt "non-profit hobby railroads". And I'd hire the local expert permit chaser.
 

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Wow, DejaVu! This reminds me of the Watts towers. When I was a kid we moved to L.A. There was this old dude in Watts who built these huge towers on his property made entirely of junk. They were somewhat organic and folk artisy,,, my art teacher took a bunch of us to see it, and it was amazing what one man could do with refuge. Anyway the city decided that these towers were structurally unsound and decided to violate the sculptor vigorously and got a court order to pull the things down. The myth (cause I'm not certain of the facts) goes that they got approval from the court to take a single crane to the property and tear down the towers, but they cranes couldn't do it. The towers were too sturdy and the cranes didn't have enough power to pull them down. In fact after several attempts, the crane broke down. Any way that's how I heard the story when I was a kid, so they had to leave the towers up.
There's nothing new about whats happening to the Richardsons, its sad and not an isolated case. As long as their are governments and their officials and their lackeys they will always be looking for some place to exercise their authority.
 

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Posted By rkapuaala on 03/20/2009 1:11 PM
Wow, DejaVu! This reminds me of the Watts towers. When I was a kid we moved to L.A. There was this old dude in Watts who built these huge towers on his property made entirely of junk. They were somewhat organic and folk artisy,,, my art teacher took a bunch of us to see it, and it was amazing what one man could do with refuge. Anyway the city decided that these towers were structurally unsound and decided to violate the sculptor vigorously and got a court order to pull the things down. The myth (cause I'm not certain of the facts) goes that they got approval from the court to take a single crane to the property and tear down the towers, but they cranes couldn't do it. The towers were too sturdy and the cranes didn't have enough power to pull them down. In fact after several attempts, the crane broke down. Any way that's how I heard the story when I was a kid, so they had to leave the towers up.
There's nothing new about whats happening to the Richardsons, its sad and not an isolated case. As long as their are governments and their officials and their lackeys they will always be looking for some place to exercise their authority.


..and the Irony is that they are still there, and are not only City Historic Monuments, but National Historic Monuments...keep fighting the pencil pushers
 

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I am on the Richardsons side, but I do not have a dog in this fight.
This is not really a live steam problem. It is a land use and nosy neighbors problem.

The thing about the parking yes most farms have a lot of place to park a lot of any type of transport but not many have a shed roof with 4 and a half tables that will seat 44 adults comfortably. That is a lot even for the old field hands type of farming which is why I became a mechanic.

If I was a "near" neighbor I would be hopping mad and writing letters, but if they had put in a hunting lodge without permits there is no reason to believe that they would not be in the same fix.
John
 
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