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Commissioners Report: Townships seek clarification on zoning

Fri, Dec 22nd, 2006
Posted in Government

Two township board members questioned the county commissioners to help clarify the county's position on zoning applications at the December 19 County Board meeting. Lyle Greenlee of Jordan Township and Randy Ness of Sumner Township emphasized that their township ordinances are more restrictive than the county ordinances. At last week's meeting a letter sent by Zoning Administrator Norman Craig to the townships was discussed. In an effort to treat all land owners fairly and equally, Craig said in the letter that starting January 1, 2007, the new county policy will be to "accept applications, determine completeness of the application, investigate to make sure it meets all (county) zoning regulations and issue a permit." Afterwards, a copy will be sent to the township clerk. Greenlee preferred that applicants come to the township first and then to the county.

Four townships, Chatfield, Jordan, Spring Valley and Sumner have more restrictive zoning regulations than does Fillmore County. Cristal Adkins from the county zoning office stressed that if someone comes in and meets the county's criteria, the county has to issue a permit. She insisted that it is the township's responsibility and their right to enforce their own ordinances. Adkins said that applicants are informed that their townships may have more restrictive ordinances.

Commissioner Randy Dahl suggested that the applicant needs to sign the cover of the permit signifying that the county made him or her aware of the possibility of stricter township ordinances. Apparently, an applicant had secured a county permit, started work and when contacted by the township that he was not in compliance, the applicant claimed that he was not made aware of the township ordinances.

Greenlee and Ness were most concerned about new homes on unimproved properties. Adkins made clear that there is always a site inspection for new dwellings. Permits for new homes would not be issued in less than a week. She noted that applicants are warned that county permit fees are non-refundable and that it would be best if they checked their township ordinances.

Chairman Duane Bakke opined that the county and the townships are on "parallel tracks" and that he felt it shouldn't be that way. He suggested that it is the applicant's responsibility to check with the township as well as the county. Commissioner Marc Prestby noted that the county has sixty days to issue a permit and that he disagreed with the issuance of a permit in some cases on the same day. He suggested that there be a week's waiting period during which townships could be notified of the application.

Nitrate Testing

Donna Rasmussen and Jeremy Maul of the Soil and Water Conservation District sought and received approval to use grant funds for a Well Network Coordinator. Rasmussen noted that the district has been awarded a grant to establish a network of about 100 volunteers in a pilot project to help track trends in nitrate levels by testing private wells over 10 years or longer. The grant will be used over two years to pay for an additional two hours per week of work time for Rasmussen to coordinate the project and for expenses associated with the project. Once the network is established the work will go on with a minimum expense.

Jeremy Maul asked that two county commissioners be appointed to a Joint Powers Appeal Board as required in the Wetland Conservation Act. Randy Dahl and Stafford Hansen volunteered. The other three board members will be available as alternates. An appeal is in the process since November 20.

Mike Frauenkron, Assistant Zoning Administrator, requested that a plotter be purchased for use by all departments in the courthouse. He explained that the machine will allow large maps to be printed. The purchase was approved for $5,079.33.

Safe Routes to School Grant

Mitch Lentz, Kingsland School District, requested that the board endorse and sponsor a grant application for Kingsland. The program is supported by communities and all levels of government to improve the health of children and to fight obesity by promoting walking and bicycling to school. Lentz said that the funds will be used to put in crosswalks. Monies from MnDot cannot be received by the school district, so Lentz requested that the county sponsor the program application so that funds may pass through the county. The board voted to sponsor and endorse the grant application. Chuck Amunrud said that the program is a "win, win" for the county, city, and the school district.

Cathode-ray Tubes

Jon Martin, Sanitation, noted that televisions and computer monitors are not allowed in landfills because of cathode-ray tubes, lead and other heavy metals. Fillmore County Resource Recovery Center has not been accepting televisions or computer monitors. A resolution was approved by the board for that policy to change. The recovery center will accept these products now for a fee of $12.50 per unit.


County Engineer John Grindeland requested and received approval to purchase a pick-up topper for the surveyor's vehicle. The special topper will cost $2,065.45 and be purchased from Midwest Custom Concepts at the low bid.

Grindeland received approval to purchase 28 Class 3 reflective safety jacket/vest combinations for maintenance and engineering personnel. The approval for the four season jacket/vest combinations was at a not to exceed combined cost of $2,200.


• A possible additional ordinance yet to be considered by the Planning Commission was discussed. It deals with a "point of sale" compliance inspection for sewer systems. Norman Craig explained that the proposed ordinance would require that before a closing on a property sale or transfer, a sewer inspection would be required. Duane Bakke noted that about 50% of the counties in the state already require the inspection. Chuck Amunrud suggested that it would be a tool to help clean up the septic system problems in the county.

The ordinance would require nothing if the sewer were up to code. If it is failing, there would be a two year period to bring it up to code. If a sewer were determined to be an imminent public health threat, it would need to be brought up to code within 10 months.

Duane Bakke noted that this would require a disclosure so that both the buyer and the seller would be aware of the problem. It would be up to them to work out who would be responsible for correcting the problem. Mike Frauenkron said that the information would allow for the buyer and seller to more fairly negotiate a price for the property.

• The Fillmore Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) Board of Supervisors has passed a resolution in support of "the adoption of a compliance inspection requirement by Fillmore County in its Zoning Ordinance when a property is being transferred."

• An access permit for Jason Dempewolf to CSAH #44, Section 18, Bristol Township was approved. This is a new driveway for both fields and the residence.

Other Business

• The purchase of a passport camera was approved as requested by the auditor/treasurer Philip Burkholder. The newly elected Shirl Boelter noted that after January 23, 2007, everyone will need a passport when going out of the country including to Canada. Currently, there is not a place to get a passport picture in Fillmore County.

• Board members thanked Philip Burkholder for his years of service.

• The County Recorder-elect David Kiehne requested and received approval to purchase invoicing software for billing of abstracts, title reports, copies, etc.

• An agreement with Pro-West to set up public access format and subscriptions to GIS information was approved. The technology committee had recommended approval. Municipalities will be able to gain access information via the Internet.

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