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Commissioners’ Report: Zoning violation - No means No


Mon, Oct 14th, 2002
Posted in Features

At last Tuesday’s meeting, county Zoning Administrator Norm Craig and County Attorney Matt Opat reported a zoning ordinance violation near Canton.

Earlier this summer, Eli Slabaugh, of Canton, requested a variance from the county to build his home just 300 feet from a rock quarry. The County Board of Adjustment denied the request, stating that county ordinance requires a set back of 1000 feet from a rock quarry for safety reasons.

Administrator Craig spoke with Mr. Slabaugh and his father later that week, “They wanted to negotiate, but regardless, they said they would build anyway.”

Mr. Opat explained that any applicant whose variance has been denied has the right to appeal the decision to the District Court. Mr. Craig said that the Slabaughs have consulted legal counsel, however, no appeal has been filed.

This week, Mr. Craig was surprised to find a new house and foundation had been almost completed in the exact spot Mr. Slabaugh was told not to build.

Amazed at the speed of the construction, Mr. Craig said, “There wasn’t a house there ten days ago.”

By ignoring the decision of the Board, Mr. Slabaugh is allegedly in violation of the county zoning ordinance which prohibits building without a permit and building in a restricted area.

Commissioner Randy Dahl asked, “He has about 10 acres there, couldn’t he have moved the house back? Was there a hardship involved?”

“Mr. Slabaugh viewed it as a hardship,” Norm Craig explained. “There is a well located on the site and he doesn’t want to invest in a bigger motor to pump the water from the well.” Mr. Craig confirmed that there was plenty of room to build the house elsewhere on the property.

Commissioners Duane Bakke and Dahl asked if this is considered an “existing building site”.

“That rule doesn’t apply,” Mr. Craig explained. “Construction of a new dwelling has to be at least 1000 feet back from a rock quarry.”

“The Board can now choose to proceed with criminal and civil action,” explained County Attorney Matt Opat, “We can charge criminally. Any violation of a zoning ordinance is a misdemeanor. Civil action would be to ask the Court for an injunction to stop construction and to issue a restraining order on the property until a decision is made by the Court.”

Mr. Opat noted that this legal action would incur some fees to the county.

“We don’t have a choice here,” Chairman Bakke concluded. “It’s in the ordinance. It’s as simple as that.”

Commissioner Marc Prestby agreed, “We have to send a message.”

The Board gave permission to Mr. Opat to “proceed with whatever they need to do.” Mr. Opat later stated that papers are being processed for both civil and criminal actions.

Chairman Bakke also suggested that when a variance is denied, the applicant should receive information in the denial letter on how to properly appeal the ruling.

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