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Half a share of water divides Millville council

April 29th, 2010 Posted in Opinion

By Jen Stevenson

MILLVILLE–Resident Wayne Ashcroft appeared before the City Council with a proposal to subdivide the land he owns at 35 N. 100 West in Millville.

His proposal included dividing his large piece of land into three smaller lots. Currently for that amount of land, Ashcroft owns three and a half shares of irrigation water. Millville ordinance says that when land is subdivided, the owners have to give back two water shares to the city, but Ashcroft proposed that he be able to keep half a share.

He explained that his purpose in keeping the extra half share would be to keep the empty lot green and looking nice, and said if that water was taken away from him the lot would just go to weeds and he doesn’t want that to happen.

The council was divided on this issue of allowing Ashcroft to keep that half a share. There was much discussion and argument among the council.

“We can not pick and choose who we let the ordinance apply to,” said Councilman Jared Taylor. “We have a responsibility to the people of Millville to be fair and to uphold the laws put into place. We have these ordinances and we’ve got to abide by them. If we don’t ensure that the ordinances are followed by all citizens then what’s the point of even having ordinances?”

Councilwoman Debbie Redman opposed Taylor’s view and felt the city should give the half a share and let Ashcroft keep it. She said that the land has been in the Ashcroft family for 90 years. They have taken good care of the land for those years so it shouldn’t make a difference to the city whether they divide that water or not. Redman said she felt it was more fair to give Ashcroft the half a share based on his long residence in the city.

“There is a difference between a new subdivision being put in new and an area like Wayne’s in the old downtown,” Councilman Mike Jessop argued. Because Ashcroft’s land is in the old downtown area where there is a lot of open land and fields, he felt Ashcroft should be allowed the half a share.

Mayor Mike Johnson said that water is very important to the city.

“You could justify any argument and those are both good ones,” Johnson said. “But if the city gives up that water and we need it later on and the city has to go out and buy those shares on the open market, everybody in the city has to pay for it. And that is not fair to every other person in the city of Millville.”

He explained that to lease half a share of water from the city is $20 per year.

“I don’t think $20 a year is too much to ask. If you want to have that water you can lease it and pay the $20 and keep the lot green. That way we can uphold the law and be fair to the rest of citizens of Millville. We have to do our job as a city government,” Johnson said.

Ashcroft agreed that $20 per year was not that much but that if the prices for the water went up he might not be able to afford the lease in the future.

“I’m just asking you to use your discretion and decide what is fair to me and my family,” Ashcroft said to the council. “God gave King Solomon a brain to say split the baby because that’s what is fair. Use your brains to decide what’s fair.”

After much discussion and deliberation the council took it to a vote. Taylor made a motion that they approved the subdivision as proposed with the full two shares of water coming back the city. The vote was 3-2 against the motion. Council members Jessop, Redman, and Hair were not in favor of approving it with council members Jensen and Taylor approving.

The council could not come to common conclusion. Jensen proposed they table the issue until next meeting so that the council could think about the situation more and weren’t forcing a decision. This motion passed 4-1 and the council will bting up more discussion at the next meeting.

Ashcroft said there was no rush and he would be OK waiting for the decision.


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