River Farm Recreation told to stop business for zoning reasons

Owner claims he’s been targeted by law enforcement

~by Janice Harbaugh for GreeneCountyNewsOnline

Craig Flack, owner of River Farm Recreation, told the county supervisors Monday he’s been targeted by law enforcement and slandered in the media since a June 22 event that created havoc for the sheriff’s office.

Flack reported he has received a cease and desist letter from the county saying his property is not zoned for the business he is running.

River Farm Recreation, a 300-acre site for outdoor recreation and group events, is located west of Jefferson on County Road P-14 south of Highway 30.

The June 22 “Summer Bash” resulted in multiple ambulance and law enforcement calls, vehicle accidents as people left the event after drinking, and reports of underage drinking.
Ron Kolbeck of Jefferson, a friend of Flack, died as the result of a one-vehicle accident on Eureka Bridge on his was home after helping at the event. The Iowa State Patrol recently verified that alcohol was a factor in the accident.

In speaking about the cease and desist letter, Flack said he feels he is being “targeted” by law enforcement because “their goal is to get a new jail,” and his name has been “drug through the mud” and “slandered by media such as Raccoon Valley Radio.” He said his insurance has increased from $471 to $2,000.

Flack said he has been told there will be a $500 fine if he holds an event he has planned for Aug. 3. That event has been touted as a “new and improved” Summer Bash, with more security and more effort to keep attendees on-site overnight as campers rather than having them drive home.

Greene County attorney Thomas Laehn explained to the board and Flack that holding the event would be a simple misdemeanor and that a judge could fine Flack up to $500 and/or sentence him for up to 30 days in jail.

The cease and desist letter was initiated by county zoning official Chuck Wenthold. Laehn said Wenthold is responsible for enforcing the zoning ordinances.

Flack’s property is currently zoned for agriculture and private non-commercial activities and he is taxed at the lower agricultural rate. Flack argued his motorcycle club activities are private and he believes the gravel pit must have been zoned commercial at one time.
Flack said he has applied for commercial zoning but approval won’t come in time for his event Aug. 3. He also would like to have a “haunted forest” in October he added.

Flack said he has never sold beer at events and there was no possibility of underage drinking at the last event as identification was checked in order to enter. He did acknowledge the possibility of fake identification.

At one point, Flack stated he has been treated unfairly. Board chair John Muir said, “Other property needs to be looked at for rezoning, too.”

At another point, Muir said, “Law enforcement is not the enemy.” He said public safety and zoning laws are important and “zoning needs to be straightened out” in this situation. Supervisor Dawn Rudolph said zoning affects taxes, also.

Muir asked if there was a way for the Aug. 3 event to go on before the zoning change application process is complete.

Sheriff Jack Williams reported the Code allows for a one- or two-day exemption. Wenthold said the process would be for Flack to submit a written plan to him and he would submit it to the board of adjustment. Wenthold thought the board could meet this coming week.

Flack agreed to that, saying he plans for increased security at the next event. “I’m just trying to stay alive,” Flack said.

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