Farmers don't want to be included in rental code


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Local farmers said their inclusion in changes to Johnson County's rental-property code is unjust.

The changes, which Johnson County supervisors said they will continue to discuss, include allowing county officials to order inspections on properties and requiring owners to fix any problems.

Janette Ryan-Busch, the owner of Fae Ridge Farm, said she doesn't agree with the inclusion because it would force area farmers to make costly and unnecessary improvements to uninhabited farm buildings.

"In reality, as a farmer, I've had endless complaints about my dogs barking, about my sheep making noise," Ryan-Busch said. "People who are from out of town and move [to Iowa], they don't understand farms. [A property code] could create a real serious financial hardship for farmers."

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 on Wednesday to continue discussion of the code during a work session.

Supervisor Terrence Neuzil said he supported the rental code's exclusion of farm owners because he believed prior laws appropriately protect those individuals.

"The reason I support that exception is because I believe the Iowa law protects farmers from these kinds of codes written by county government," he said.

However, not all supervisors agree.

Supervisor Janelle Rettig said she thinks the rental code is not worth the number of exemptions.

"The board has chosen to exempt so many properties and is complaint-only," she said. "I think it's not worth it."

The most recent changes to the code were brought up after concerns arose with the living conditions of the Regency Mobile Home Park.

Neuzil said, even in light of the mobile-home issues, the ordinance would need to be encompassing of more than one area.

"We can't create a county law that says we are going to look at mobile homes," he said. "It's everybody or nobody."

Assistant Johnson County prosecutor Susan Nehring said most of the mobile homes are owned by the residents, making the code inapplicable to them.

She noted that the homes — which are rented out by either the trailer park owner or a mobile home owner — would have to adhere to the new code changes if they pass.

Last year, the supervisors discussed the rental code and held a public hearing in which farmers attended and voiced concerns.

Supervisor Pat Harney also agreed with the code's exclusion of farmers because a lot of the properties are owner-occupied or have a relative living on the property.

"We had a meeting last fall and many of the farmers expressed concern," Harney said. "The actual Farm Bureau wrote a lot of the verbiage, and it satisfies their concerns."

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