From: Steve Jacob
When I first read the letter to the editor from Tessa Schwietzer entitled “Who is Steve Jacob” I thought that it looked as though the letter had been written by somebody from the Winona County planning department, but I see it is clearly signed by Tessa Schwietzer. Tessa insinuates that it is a fraudulent claim that I am a farmer. The home page of my website has stated for months that I am a fourth generation family farmer and owner of two additional family operated small businesses, Quality Firewood and Jacob Hill Estates. My business is what it is. I have nothing to be ashamed of for providing these three valuable services to my community while using my property to feed my family. Coincidentally, the majority of my income is derived from farming.
Tessa implies that my reason for wanting to amend the zoning ordinance is purely selfish and she insinuates that it is unlikely the people of Winona County are asking me to solve the problems associated with having their property labeled nonconforming. Tessa also insinuates that it is not likely that I have the compassion to help others. Interestingly, before I started the Landowners of Winona County group, the accusation was leveled against me that I would be the most likely supporter of the strictest new ordinance possible. Their reasoning was if everyone else in the county had their rights taken away then I would have a monopoly with my existing approved properties. So apparently these people will find a way to spin me as evil whether I would support the ordinance or if I oppose the ordinance.
Tessa then goes into the court-related issues I’ve had in the past. It is important to me that people know I did everything in my power to keep my land use issues out of court. My issues began when the Planning Director sent the sheriff to my residence on a Sunday afternoon during a family get-together. The document he served on me that day threatened my family with $1,000 per day in fines and possible imprisonment. When this happens, you are guilty until you prove your innocence. I had no choice but to take the county to court to prove my innocence. As a result of that case Judge Jeffrery Thompsom wrote in his ruling that the Planning Department quote “failed to exercise a duty imposed by law by not enforcing the Winona County Zoning Ordinance as it is written, and by doing so, have caused Steve and Mary Jacob damages and placed a burden on Plaintiffs” unquote.
I never sued the county for those damages. I didn’t want the taxpayers to be on the hook for mistakes made by the Planning Director. Never wanting this injustice to happen to anyone else, I was motivated to watch out for other people’s rights. Being a believer in a higher power, I concluded I was being made aware of county issues not for my own gain but to help others. This lead to my leadership in the Landowners of Winona County.
I believe this election is much more about what is good for Winona County as a whole and much less about my personal land use issues and whether I did or did not win a court case against Winona County. My land use issues have been behind me for years now. I don’t see Tessa’s connection of what happened years ago parlaying into the fact that it is wrong for people to support me now and ask me to help take the non-conforming label off their properties by establishing a method to grandfather their property.
Coincidentally, Tessa’s referral to me owning 22 parcels is further evidence of flaws stemming from the planning department’s program. I own 2 farms with 5 additional homes on these farms. The 22 parcels are a result of the planning department’s use of countywide section lines as property barriers. I’ve visited with many people who don’t understand why they have so many parcel statements when they pay their property taxes. That is a cumbersome and confusing program.