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Commissioners’ Report: Zoning permits challenge county board

Fri, Mar 14th, 2003
Posted in Features

Norman Craig, Fillmore County Zoning Administrator, brought two permits before the county board on Tuesday.

The first was a blasting conditional use permit for John Ackerman of Spring Valley Township. The second was a subdivision conditional use permit for Bruce and Linda Bucknell, Sumner Township.

Blasting permit

Mr. Ackerman was before the board requesting a renewal of a five-year blasting permit, not to quarry rock, but to search out caves on his property.

"My passion is to find caves,” explained that property owner. “But I don’t want to go commercial."

The caves, which are "in a natural, wild state", are set up for educational tours. Several hundred school children, as well as other groups, have walked through the caves. Ackerman, intending to continue his search for these nature-created spectacles, has used a rock quarry permit in the past. Here lies the dilemma with the commissioners. Does this digging actually fall into the quarry category?

Commissioner Helen Bick-nese said there have been concerns over the liability of going underground and, also, whether or not in doing so, are folks trespassing on other property owners’ land as the caves snake underground.

Ackerman presented an aerial map indicating where his land lies and where he is blasting. There is a small piece of property, which does belong to the DNR for the Pheasants Forever Project. However, this does not interfere with Ackerman’s territory.

Commissioner Chuck Amun-rud described the situation as unique. Another concern revolves around adequate restroom facilities. The current outhouse is considered inadequate for the number of people that visit the site. This could easily be remedied by installing rented porta-potties.

Commissioner Randal Dahl suggested that the situation might fall into a non-ag business category, as the site is outside city limits. Or, perhaps a rural home based business? Ackerman does charge a small fee for tours, but doesn’t make a living off of it. The funds merely help offset expenses incurred while searching out the caves.

Mr. Craig showed Commis-sioner Duane Bakke a handout, which defines quarrying as extraction of rock and minerals - and Ackerman is extracting to find caves. Ackerman has agreed to provide proof of insurance and agreed to update restroom facilities. The permit will be granted.

Subdivision conditional

use permit

Bruce and Linda Bucknell, Sumner Township have requested a conditional use permit for a seven-lot subdivision, with the possibility of increasing up to 15 lots on the former Melvin Smith property. This has met opposition with several neighbors, who have presented a signed petition with 30 names on it. The group is requesting an Environmental Impact Study and/or a Discretionary Environmental Assessment Work Sheet. The main concern with this proposed project is the possible effect it may have on septic systems and contamination of groundwater. The area has a limestone base with karst features.

"I don’t like approving subdivision conditional use permits without having looked at the sites", said Dahl.

"We won’t know if we want to do a worksheet until we see the site," agreed Chairman Prestby.

The board decided to have evidence from the Bucknell’s and the concerned citizens be brought to the board on April 1. A possible decision will be passed down on either April 8 or April 22.

SWCD budget cut ruling made

The Soil & Water Conservation District has taken one of the sharpest cuts from the state, $160,063, and has been scrambling to put together a plan to save their budget. SWCD is proposing to use 2002 carry over funds to pick up the state’s portion of the Feedlot Pollution Control Officer’s and Water Planner salaries. The board has agreed to provide $19,425 for these positions as previously indicated in the 2003 budget. They have also approved $3,000 expenditure for the SE MN Water Resource Board.

The SWCD also requested that the county fund $15,000 of the Feedlot Engineering Technician’s salary for one year. This was turned down.

Commissioner Bakke believes the Feedlot Program has shown its true value and the money will show up for the program in 2004-2005. He noted that with all the meetings he’s attended, the state is still relying on counties to put out.


Commissioner Dahl discussed the possibility of moving up the paving project for the county airport. His concern is that there is currently a 90%-10% cost share grant available from the federal government. This will later fall to a 60-40 ratio. Commissioner Amunrud noted the state is proposing an additional new 50 fees with the potential of raising half a million dollars—yet no one can guarantee the fees will remain within the counties.

Bakke cautioned the board in regard to the 90-10 ratio. He noted SEMCAC had already spent dollars that were supposed to be backed by the state, and now that money has disappeared. The paving project will be reviewed closer before a final decision is made.

Other business

•Commissioner Bicknese inquired about the county’s current standing on wind energy and what the county is doing to regulate/encourage such a resource. Zoning Officer Norman Craig said the county has an old policy on the issue, but it dates back ten years. He does have a revised draft pending and will get back to the board on the subject.

•The board approved the rezoning of four acres from the ag district to commercial for Fred and Linda O’Connor, Fountain Township. The acreage is located across from NAPA of Preston.

•The board approved a conditional use permit for a sand pit owned by Donald Solberg, Preston Township.

•The board approved a refund of $53,175.25 plus interest to Rebecca Barr as required utilities have been installed.

•Coordinator Karen Brown discussed the implementation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) which focuses on privacy protection. The county needs to be up to code or they will lose medicare dollars. More information will be brought back on the purchasing of software for the work.

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