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Court hears zoning dispute in Canton Township

Fri, Jan 10th, 2003
Posted in Features

Amish hats sit parked in an ante room next to the Fillmore County District Court on Tuesday, as the court heard arguments in a case involving Eli Slabaugh and Fillmore County. Photo by John Torgrimson

Judge Robert Benson heard oral arguments in Fillmore County District Court on Tuesday, January 7 regarding a zoning dispute between Eli Slabaugh of rural Canton and Fillmore County.In October, the court imposed a restraining order on Slabaugh preventing him from continuing construction on a permanent dwelling on land he owns in Canton Township. The dispute centers around the site location for Slabaughs dwelling, which is located 300 feet from a rock quarry. The Fillmore County Zoning Ordinance stipulates that dwellings need to be set back a minimum of 1000 feet from a quarry. This past summer, the Fillmore County Planning and Zoning Commission rejected Slabaughs request for a 700 foot variance. Despite this decision, it is alleged that Slabaugh continued with construction with his dwelling, in direct violation of the zoning ordinance.Attorney Daniel Moulton of Rochester, representing Slabaugh, told the court that the countys application of the zoning ordinance in this case was arbitrary and capricious. Moulton contended that Slabaughs dwelling was approximately 1500 feet away from the working part of the quarry and that little or no activity had taken place at the site. According to Moulton, the last time blasting was done at the quarry was five years ago. Consequently, Moulton concluded that Slabaughs dwelling did not pose a threat to public safety.Moulton also told the court that there is precedent for the county granting sizeable variances in the past. According to Moulton, Slabaugh proceeded to buy the land for the building site a few years ago after consulting with the Fillmore County Zoning Administrator Norm Craig, and being assured that it was a suitable building site. When Slabaugh went to get a building permit this spring, he was told that he would need a variance. Moulton finished his remarks to the court by stating that it would be unreasonable to ask my client to tear down his house and build elsewhere.County Attorney Matt Opat told that court that when Eli Slabaugh bought his property, the deed clearly stated that the property was subject to the zoning laws of the county. Opat said timing is very important to the case. Regardless of what he (Slabaugh) was told two years ago, when he went to get a permit, he was told he cant build, Opat told the court.Opat further explained that any hardship in the case was created by Slabaugh. The county said, No, you cant build, but he went out and built anyway. He created his own hardship, Opat said.Judge Benson took the matter under advisement and will rule within 90 days.

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