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Smoldering sawdust and sleeping tourists

Fri, May 11th, 2001
Posted in

Monday, May 14, 2001

Zoning permits were the dominant agenda item at last Tuesdays regular session of the County Board. Zoning Administrator Norm Craig presented the commissioners with a long list of Conditional Use Permits (CUP) passed on from the Planning Commission to the Board for approval.

At the top of the CUP list were two applications for sawmills. The first application, for Henry Zook, was to permit and operate an existing sawmill. The second, for Emery Hershberger, was to construct and operate a new sawmill.

Commissioner Marc Prestby, whose district has seen the greatest increase in sawmill applications and includes both the Zook and Hershberger sawmills, began the discussion noting that the Canton Fire Department, of which he is a member, has been called to the Zook sawmill three times because of smoldering sawdust piles.

"Dont they need to get a burn permit?" inquired Commissioner Randy Dahl.

"Yes, but sawmills can get a six month permit (versus the two week permit normally given)," responded Craig.

"I guess Id like to see some of the burning addressed in these permits," added Prestby. "Most of the problems are with the sawdust piles."

After Commissioner Harry Root expressed his concerns about inconsistent regulation of the sawmills, County Attorney Matt Opat recommended that specific language be developed for the regulating of burning at the sawmill sites and placed on the permits as conditions. Many of the sawmills being permitted are on Amish farms and all on the Board acknowledged the primary use of wood for heat and cooking on Amish farms.

Before the end of the meeting, Mr. Opats office drafted language for use on the permits and the applications were approved. The specific language stated: "The sawmill operator shall not allow by-products to be burned unless for personal use in heating and cooking."

To the Hershberger application was added an additional condition: "The sawmill shall be designed and built to reduce noise effecting nearby neighbors." As the sawmill has yet to operate, it was not made clear which noise that is "effecting" the neighbors is to be reduced, and by how much.

Bed and Breakfasts

Moving from sawmills in the agriculture district to bed and breakfasts (B&B) in the agriculture district, the commissioners reviewed and approved applications for three new B&Bs.

Well, actually, two of the permits were for new lodging establishments and the third was for one that had been operating for five years without a permit.
On the latter, Eagle Cliff Campground near Lanesboro had been operating a six bedroom "bed and breakfast" for five years under the umbrella of their CUP for a campground. To bring the establishment into compliance with the zoning ordinance, the zoning office informed the owners, Ivan, Mary, Harold and Gail Naber that the B&B permit was required.

Upon application review at the planning commission level, the Nabers were told that the ordinance allows no more than a five bedroom B&B and that they would have to close one of their units. Ivan and Harold Naber were present at the commissioner review and stated that they had converted one of their units to a storage room.

The five-bedroom limit in the ordinance also plagued Fred Kiel as his permit went through planning commission process. Kiel originally applied for a B&B permit for five of the ten bedrooms he planned to put in the new home he is constructing near Lanesboro. Or at least thats what the zoning administrator thought when the application went to the planning commission.

The planning commission would only recommend approval for a B&B permit if Mr. Kiel designed his home for a maximum of six bedrooms, five for the guests and one for the owner. A condition that raised more than a few eyebrows.

However, when the permit came up for review before the commissioners on Tuesday, Kiel was in attendance and presented the board with house plans that showed a total of seven bedrooms, of which he stated only five would be for paying guests.

When the commissioners, upon review of the plans, saw the segregation of the five bedrooms from the owners "two-bedroom living area," the application was approved. It was not stated why the planning commission had not seen the seven-bedroom house plans with the original B&B application.

The commissioners also approved a "one-bedroom unit only" B&B application for Renee Haugerud on her property in Section 5 of Preston Township.

Other zoning action

The Board also approved the restructuring of the Board of Adjustment to change the membership from three commissioner-appointed members to five commissioner-appointed members who are also members of the planning commission, each of whom represent a separate commissioner district.

According to Commissioner Duane Bakke, the change is consistent with the way some other counties in Minnesota appoint members to the Board of Adjustment and is in compliance with state statute. According to Bakke, the change will also allow those on the planning commission who develop and recommend the land-use ordinances to also have authority over how and when a variance to those ordinances can be issued.

The commissioners also approved an amendment to the zoning ordinance that will now require that all property owners within 500 feet of a variance applicant be notified in writing of the public hearing on the variance request. The distance had been 300 feet but was not in compliance with state statutes.

Mike Douglas of rural Harmony also received approval to operate an auto and farm equipment repair business on his land in Section 8 of Harmony Township.

Commissioner briefs

County Engineer Steve Voigt made his final appearance before the Board to get approval for several projects. Voigts last day as the countys highway engineer is May 14. The county will be conducting interviews with two engineering candidates during the month of May, but will find itself without a professional engineer on staff until the position can be filled.

The commissioners also adopted a resolution to declare May 20-26, 2001 as Emergency Medical Services Week. The proclamation recognizes the quality of life all receive through the dedication and professionalism of all who serve in the field of Emergency Services.

The Board also decided to change the time at which it will start discussions on the countys facilities from 1:00 PM to 11:00 AM on the 22nd of May. Commissioner Bakke stated he would like to begin the discussions with talk about the Resource Recovery Center buildings that will soon be available for transformation to other uses.

And for the record, the grand total of all County Engineer applications received, qualified or unqualified, was two..

By Mike McGrath

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