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Amish Freedoms Come at a Price

Written By: Travis Buhler  |  Posted: Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Levi Herschberger, a member of the Augusta Amish community, was under the impression that rezoning his agricultural land to commercial would be all that he needed in order to open up a new "Bent 'n Dent" grocery store on his property five miles southeast of Augusta. The Eau Claire County Board of Supervisors was too. Last month they overruled unanimously the department of planning and development's recommendation not to allow the change.
Now Eau Claire County planning and development employee Rod Eslinger has informed Levi that he must apply for a conditional use permit because the county code makes no mention of a property having both a furniture business (which is already on the site) and a grocery store. The application costs $435. The Herschbergers already paid $483 in order to rezone their land to commercial.

Levi wanted to open his business by May 10th. When he originally met with Mr. Eslinger he asked him, "Could I go with just a conditional use permit?" The answer was no. In Levi's words, "he said, 'but if you rezone to C1, your good to go.' They didn't let us know nothing [about any additional requirements]."
Again, the Eau Claire Board of Supervisors is expected to approve the variance. There may even be a chance that they will refund the $435 fee that Levi paid. The full board will approve this on the May 18th full board meeting. I want to say that I personally agree with the Herschbergers. If a family wants to open up a business on their own property, let them. But for many people who have opened up businesses, $900 seems small for a total government compliance cost. When it comes to rezoning, signage requirements, blueprint approvals, fire and safety requirements, inspections, etc., it seems that the Amish can "get away with" a lot of these things that we non-Amish have to pay for.

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