Adjustment board now provides case files at meetings
An environmental association suing Hubbard County's Board of Adjustment formally asked that body to change its procedures Monday to include internal recommendations from the county's Environmental Services Offices in the public meetings.
Attorney Chuck Diessner, one of the lawyers representing the Hubbard County Coalition of Lake Associations, made the request during an application for a home addition variance, maintaining in his research, the Board frequently votes counter to the ESO's recommendations.
"My request goes beyond this particular application," Diessner said. "The ESO's recommendations are never included" in the public meetings. "The public is entitled to understand what the ESO's recommendation is."
The Board and the county are being sued by COLA and Fifth Crow Wing Lake homeowners for failing to follow its own policies in granting a dock slip request for a Planned Unit Development on that lake.
Since filing suit last spring, COLA members have monitored Board meetings ever since.
Diessner said they've discovered a surprising pattern of the board ignoring the ESO's internal recommendations as to whether a certain variance request should be granted or denied.
He said the association finds that troubling, because the ESO is charged with having the expertise to evaluate such requests.
Board of Adjustment members are citizens appointed by county commissioners. Although many have served lengthy terms and have experience in zoning and environmental issues, the ESO is the presumed shoreland expert.
ESO Eric Buitenwerf said the board has begun to furnish the public those staff reports on a table in the boardroom that explains each project discussed.
In other action, the board:
n Tabled for a second time a controversial request by Big Mantrap Lake property owners Michael and Lisa Reinhart to subdivide a lot that cannot meet the road requirements without a variance.
Their proposal has been pending for almost two years and was tabled one year ago until this month. The Reinharts have not attended the meetings.
They're trying to subdivide property off Jack Pine Lane. The ordinance states the newly created parcel must either front a public road or have a 33-foot minimum ingress and egress easement connecting that parcel to a public road.
Jack Pine Lane is a narrow semi-private drive that services nine landowners.
Those owners have been unwilling to grant the Reinharts a 33-foot easement, as a widened road would go right through at least one property's living room.
Other legal entanglements have hindered the progress of the subdivision, so the Board tabled the road request for one year.
Opponent Helen Marsh said the Reinharts have never fulfilled a condition the Board placed on them last year, going before Thorpe Township zoning officials to determine if there could be an alternate access route.
But letters opposing the request stated the couple has already been using Jack Pine Lane to transport building materials without problems except wear to the road. They can't see why a wider easement is necessary.
The Board previously tabled the matter to give the property owners and township time to work out a solution.
n Approved a setback variance for Dan and Gayle Colemen to construct a new drain field to upgrade a failing septic system on their Long Lake property.
The drain field would not meet the 150-foot setback but cannot meet it anywhere on the property.
n Approved an after-the-fact variance request by Bruce and Kirsten Otto to leave a porch addition on their home in the shore impact zone.
The porch was installed by the previous owners four to six years ago and came under scrutiny when Ottos purchased the Potato River property recently.
"It would be more of a problem to the property to remove it," noted Tom Krueger, a planning commission member sitting in for board chair Lou Schwindt.
n Denied a variance to Douglas McDonald and Julie Moskoff to remove an ice ridge from their Lake Benedict property to create a sandy beach.
The applicants were unable to attend the meeting.
Board members noted during the site visitation that part of the ice ridge has already been removed for placement of a dock into the lake and that the property has begun eroding into the lake.
The couple needs to come up with a plan that satisfies the topography of the lot, the board concluded in denying the request 5-0.
COLA President Dan Kittelson pointed out the ESO had recommended denial of the request.
"Ice ridges serve a real purpose on our lakes," he told the board.
n Granted a variance to Robert Carter and Diane Clarke-Carter to change an addition allowed under a previous variance to the former property owners.
Architect Stephen Holt explained that the Carters added some more decorative features to the addition without increasing the footprint.
The board was going to condition granting the variance on the couple re-vegetating the first 25 feet of shoreline, but dropped the condition when they couldn't agree on the type of vegetation they wanted to see planted.
n Granted a variance for a 16-by-32-foot addition for Eleventh Crow Wing homeowners Thomas and Lori Osdoba.
The couple needed a variance because the residential structure was already nonconforming.
The board got sidetracked in the discussion of a deck or platform that was included on the plans and that encroached six feet further into the shore impact zone. The platform was not part of the variance request. The board brought it up because it had been included in the plans submitted for the request.
Buitenwerf presented the department's internal recommendation to grant the variance because the platform could be constructed without one.
"Why are we even discussing this (the platform) when we don't need a variance?" asked Lori Osdoba.