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WV Man Claims He Was Singled Out For Zoning Violation

By Jack Gurner


WATER VALLEY – Terry Cobern said he is going to sell his property and move out of town. But, if that doesn’t work out, he may stay and run for mayor.

    Cobern, who lives at 1517 North Central Street, appeared in Water Valley municipal court last Thursday and pleaded no contest to a zoning ordinance violation. He was cited under section 102.12 for improperly parking a major recreational vehicle on his property.

    The ordinance, which was adopted in August of 2006, details how “certain vehicles, major recreational and storage equipment” can be parked or stored within the city.

    Cobern had subpoenas issued for Mayor Bill Norris, the five members of the board of aldermen, Pat Ray, Police Chief Mike King, Police Lt. Rick McCuan, and Morris Surrette, city zoning administrator. All were to appear as witnesses in his case.

    Pat Ray is a private citizen who had written a letter to the Herald in response to a letter from Cobern. Her subpoena as well as those for the mayor, aldermen, and police chief was quashed by Judge Trent Howell, who said they “didn’t have a dog in this fight.”

    By pleading no contest to the charge, Cobern’s can appeal his case to circuit court where he believes he will have a better chance.

    Cobern said he first talked to Mayor Bill Norris after he learned of the ordinance and was told not to be concerned. “Bill told me right here standing in this front yard that ‘you don’t have a thing to worry about. That camper is not bothering a soul.'”

    Mayor Norris declined to comment on Cobern’s statement.

    About a week after his conversation with the mayor, according to Cobern, the police told him that he was going to have to move his camper trailer. He was also told that he was going to have to clean up his yard..

    “This is the only street and I am the only person they are picking on,” Cobern said. He then pointed to a house further north on Central where a car had been parked in the yard for several years with an outdated tag.

    Cobern pointed to another camper trailer just down the street from his property that he described as being closer to the street than his. He has also compiled a list of what he believes are violations of the ordinance from all over town. Some of the alleged violators are city and county officials.

    The camper trailer is important to Cobern. “I’m not selling my RV,” he said. “That’s my way of getting away from the rat race. They are telling you what you can and can’t have in your yard.” Cobern added that he doesn’t believe Water Valley is big enough for these kinds of laws.

    Cobern has lived at the same address on North Central Street for all of his 47 years. He said he has tired of the harassament and has put the property on the market. If it doesn’t sell, he has another plan. “If I’m still here, I’m going to run for mayor.

    “Editor’s note: Reporter Jack Gurner served on the Water Valley Planning Commission from the time it was formed two years ago until he resigned last month after joining the Herald staff. He believes the zoning ordinances are important for Water Valley’s growth. However, he also believes that citizens should have a chance to be heard when they disagree with the ordinances.

    This is the first of a two-part series. Next week the planning commissioners have their say.

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