Are There Really Townships in Missouri?
Yes, there are, and one of them just lost a lawsuit for, among other reasons, not properly following the open records laws. The Joplin Globe has the full story, via JC. (That is not JC as in God, nor Watts, nor the hero from The Terminator, but Missouri’s own John Combest.) I have to half-heartedly agree with the plaintiff in this one, although I sure as hell would not want to live next to a hog farm. It does not seem fair that the zoning laws would be changed only after the hog farm began the process of starting up, and the fact that the township’s zoning board screwed up the public notifications is serious stuff.
However, I hope the zoning changes will apply in this area in future cases. I think most of my collegues here will disagree with me, but if the residents of a township, or county, want strict zoning to prevent operations like this, I think that is reasonable.
The subtext to this post is that 22 Missouri counties actually have a township form of government. I don’t think there is anything wrong with townships when they apply statewide, like Illinois, and have existed since statehood, but it is just crazy to have them selectively in the smallest counties of Missouri. The State Auditor’s office has audited township governments in Missouri and found significant problems with their financial reporting, record keeping, sunshine law violations, and more. I read this audit a few months ago for a paper I am working on, so needless to say, this Globe article did not surprise me. One county, Wright, actually got rid of townships a few years ago after experiencing many similar problems. I suspect that, in the future, many more of these 22 counties will do the same.