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County wrestles with Sumner moratorium


Fri, Jun 13th, 2003
Posted in Features

While the county may have its own ordinance regarding planning and zoning, townships have the right to require even more specified regulations when it comes to land use. Sumner Township has exercised this right by passing a one-year moratorium on building non-ag structures. However some parties feel they have been caught unjustly in the middle.Recently, the county board denied Greg Woolums a refund for his building permit as is stipulated in county policy. Woolums had requested the refund when Sumner Township had passed the moratorium while he was in the process of obtaining a building permit. While the county found no grounds to deny the permit, the township halted the would-be builder with their newly passed ordinance.Assistant Attorney Matt Opat pointed out the county has the right to act on a refund but has no authority regarding the permit in question. This must be appealed to the Board of Adjustment. With that, the first party’s dispute in regard to Sumner’s authority ended. Bucknell SubdivisionThe next party questioning the new language was Bruce and Linda Bucknell of Racine. They had come before the board on April 8 seeking a conditional use permit to establish a subdivision with seven lots and two outside lots on land they own located in Section 25 in Sumner Township.The project came to a halt in early March due to a petition requesting an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW). A 30-signature petition was sent to the Environmental Quality Board asking that an EAW be completed as the group felt there was a reasonable possibility of groundwater contamination in the limestone and karst featured area. Upon reviewing a report from Mat Fowler, GGG Engineering of Chatfield, the county board felt the items listed as concerns had been addressed.Since their last meeting, Bucknell and Fowler have made some changes regarding the project in hopes to calm concerns of the township board. Some of the changes include cutting down on the number of lots; moving the road more into the Bucknell property to cut down on traffic; and working to move the lots away from a feedlot line. The board felt that too many details of the project had changed since their last meeting. Bicknese pointed out that these new changes are not what the public had originally heard. Bucknell stated that he was only trying to accommodate the public but perhaps he should go back to his original plans as presented. Several township board members were present for discussion. Matt Snyder recapped the board’s views. "Sumner Township has spent endless hours on their policy. We feel the county should back us. Septic systems are a major concern and the road will not handle the traffic", stated Snyder. He passed out pictures of the concerned areas for water contamination. Coming to bat for the subdivision, Commissioner Randy Dahl stated a good septic tank system that is maintained is better than many current farming practices which continue to cause soil erosion. After more deliberation the following conditions were placed on the conditional use permit: 1)No dwelling in the Subdivision may use the township road as an access. All traffic must enter and exit the same location. 2)All lots within 1,000 feet of the feedlots must be platted as Outlets. If the feedlot issue is resolved such that the feedlot is no longer within 1,000 feet of these Outlets they may be replatted. 3)All homeowners must have a maintenance agreement for the pumping of the septic tank with a licensed on-site sewer pumper. 4)All owners must have agreements for garbage removal. There shall be no burn barrels. 5)Future homeowners will be informed that the county is not in a position to upgrade the county road in the foreseeable future. 6)Fillmore County will not issue a Land Use Permit without the approval of the Sumner Township Board. The township must approve all Land Use Permits before the homeowner may proceed to build. 7)The three homes that have been permitted shall become part of the Subdivision if the Subdivision moves forword. "I want you to really try to work with Mr. Bucknell, he started this in good faith", concluded Commissioner Dahl.Court AdministrationJim Attwood, Court Admin-istrator, asked the board to reconsider hiring a replacement for Pam Bowen, Office Support Specialist, who has resigned effective July 7. Attwood had made his original request at the May 13 board meeting. However, at that time the legislature was still in session, the final budget cuts were an unknown, and there was a freeze on hiring state employees. The state will be taking over the courts in June of 2004. Attwood has since made contact with the state in regard to filling the position. He explained the state is in labor negotiations now and will then be taking a closer look at positions that have become vacated. If the board would approve the hiring of a temporary person until June, 2004, Attwood must have the state approve of the exemption before advertising."Everybody is coming in and wants to fill vacated positions", said a frustrated Commissioner Dahl. "No one is looking ahead to cuts. I will do it as a commissioner, there are going to be cuts made." Dahl asked that if the economy would get better, is the rural community’s court system going to still face financial difficulties. Attwood assured the commissioner the state recognizes the vulnerability of the rural area and will work to maintain a functional system. The courts, though, must take a 3% cut. "I think Jim has researched the need", supported Commissioner Helen Bicknese. "I want this filled in-house", stated Dahl. Dahl doesn’t want to spend money on training a new individual and down the road have to lay someone off that is already trained. Commissioner Chuck Amunrud wanted it made known that this would be one of the first positions to be eliminated when cuts are made. Dahl and Commissioner Duane Bakke touched on the possibility of a floater position. Coordinator Karen Brown pointed out the current floater has been very much in demand. Chairman Marc Prestby said the floater theory should be referred to department heads. Filling of the position was approved contingent on state approval.

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