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Board of Adjustment grapples with Belle Taine variance

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The steadily rising waters of Lake Belle Taine gave Hubbard County's Board of Adjustment pause Monday morning as it tabled a variance request to build a new home on the lakeshore.

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A request by Ardeth and Everett Duthoy to improve and build on a Belle Taine lot involved several shoreland ordinances that could not be complied with and the board, after a lengthy discussion, tabled the matter to re-visit the site and take additional measurements.

The board viewed the lot last Thursday in preparation for the Monday meeting.

A 1993 variance was granted for a previous owner to build on the lot 67 feet from the lakeshore, closer than the 100-foot ordinary setback.

But the lake's high water mark was revised after the lake rose to historic levels a decade ago.

Duthoy was under the impression that new water level negated the old variance, so he applied for a new one.

He requested to build 62 feet from the lakeshore, park an RV on the lot at less than the 100 foot setback until the home is completed, locate the home at less than the 10-foot septic tank setback and less than the required 20 feet from the drain field.

"It's a difficult position to be put in," BOA chair Jerry Cole admitted, adding he was "reluctant to issue it because of the way Belle Taine is, although you should be allowed use of the property."

But that bothered representatives of the Coalition of Lake Associations, who were involved in the fight over Belle Taine's rise 10 years ago when many properties experienced severe water problems.

"The problems were caused because people were allowed to build too close to the lake," said Hubbard County COLA president Dan Kittilson. "People upstream didn't want to pay for their problems."

A solution to build an outlet a decade ago and assess adjoining lake homeowners went down in flames. In part, other lake homeowners worried about Belle Taine's water quality, since many septic systems on that lake had been compromised with the high water.

Duthoy said the lot is 180 feet, with some of it wetlands. But even though the water is rising on the lake, Duthoy told the board there's no standing water near the lakeshore and the lake level would have to rise six feet to damage his planned home.

"If the water rises six feet we'll have a lot of homes in water," he said. "I bought this property in good faith thinking I could build on it." Duthoy also mentioned he's been paying the taxes on the lot.

"I think we need to take a look at it," Cole said.

"What's it going to change?" Duthoy questioned. The site visitation will take place in August.

The board seemed to differ as to whether the 1993 variance request was still valid, but BOA member Lou Schwindt maintained it was in his opinion.

New rules will go into effect upon publication of recently enacted amend- ments to the shoreland ordinance. Those rules will place a five-year sunset clause on all variance requests so the board doesn't have to grapple with longstanding requests that were never acted upon.

The board seemed to struggle procedurally in lieu of those pending rule changes.

A divided board split 3-2 on two requests by Brian England and his sisters, who are trying to subdivide an estate property on 11th Crow Wing Lake, but presently lack a 33-foot road easement to complete the subdivision.

The family wants to build a second home on the property after it's subdivided. The structure would exceed the size of a guest cabin. England said a title company has been sorting out the easement issue.

COLA representative Chuck Diessner said under the incoming standards, it would be impossible for the board to grant a variance allowing the eventual subdivision and a temporary 20-foot easement until the legal issues are straightened out.

"To grant it now would be an illegal variance," Diessner objected. The board, on a 3-2 motion approved building the second home on the large tract of land, but denied by the same margin the road issue since the easement was still pending.

That means until the property gets the wider easement, the property cannot be subdivided and no building permit can be issued for the home.

The board also split 3-2 on a variance request by Richard and Darlene Mondry to build a new cabin on their Lake George land unless they first removed a bunkhouse.

The board reasoned the lot simply is too small for two dwellings on it.

Their old cabin burned in 2004. Because both Mondrys had health issues, they were unable to reconstruct the new home on the same footprint within a year of its destruction, which they could have done without a variance.

COLA representatives again objected.

"I don't see a need for a variance," Diessner said. The new cabin could be built 100 feet from the lakeshore and be in compliance, he maintained.

Richard Mondry said he'd "rather not abandon" his bunkhouse since he's put money into it.

By a 3-2 vote, the board denied the request to build the new home with the variance as presented. Then by the same margin, members granted the right to build the home if the bunkhouse was removed once the new home is livable.

The Mondrys would have to remove the water and septic system and could not use it for bedrooms. They reluctantly agreed to the condition.

In other business, the board:

n Approved a variance over COLA's objection for Thomas Baker to enlarge a deck around his 3rd Crow Wing home as long as the structure didn't go closer to the lake.

Diessner said there was a reasonable alternative available, and under that criterion, no variance could be issued.

The board ignored his objection.

n Granted a variance to Mark and Amanda Haugen, via the Warmbold family, to allow a non-conforming lot in Straight River Township to become more non-conforming to relocate a property line.

n Approved an after-the-fact variance by Paul Mickelson to add a covered deck to his Kabekona Lake property to accommodate a wheelchair. Mickelson explained he'd begun the work and learned he needed a variance so he stopped and applied for the paperwork.

n Approved a variance request by Kevin and Brenda Gubrud to place a 16-by-16 foot addition onto their LaSalle Creek home that would encroach into the shore impact zone. Schwindt questioned whether the setback should be 100 or 150 feet.

"It's a unique situation," he agreed.

The board granted the variance because the cabin is nestled in woods and can't be seen from the lake or river.

n Denied a variance by David T. Wold to place a guest cabin on a Kabekona Lake lot that lacked sufficient size for a second dwelling.

"It doesn't meet any requirement for a guest cabin so I can't go along with it," member Earl Benson said of the variance request.

Board members reasoned the family could add on to the rustic cabin on the non-lake side of the home if more living space was needed.

n Denied a variance request by John and Diane Omann to remodel and add on to a home in the shore impact zone of Lake Garfield. The board pressured Omanns to simply rebuild the home, since the renovation entailed substantial reconstruction.

David Omann said rebuilding was not an option.

"I don't think this is a tear-down situation," he objected.

"Moving it back might be a lesser expense for you," board member Charles Knight said of the cabin that sits 44 feet from the lakeshore. "Move it out of the sacred zone."

But Knight acknowledged the Omanns "have the right to rebuild."

Adding a 50 percent addition to a home in the shore impact zone is against the ordinance, however.

"Any addition in the shore impact zone I would oppose," Schwindt said.

n Approved the construction of a new shed for Owen Thomas' 1st Crow Wing cabin, but only if the structure is located on the back of the property, not the lakeshore side.

In doing so, the board gave Thomas permission to encroach on the road right-of-way, the property sideline and the 100-foot lakeshore setback.

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Sarah Smith
Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.
(218) 732-3364
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