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The spot at the lower left corner of this photo shows what is believed to be the shore impact zone of David Hagert's yard. It has been a lawn area for years. It only recently got saturated with the excess rainfall. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Board of Adjustment says 'no' to garage addition

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The stunning 2½-story structure, wood and beams, overlooks Shallow and Deer Lakes.

It cost around $400,000 and compliments the adjacent home. David Hagert's neighbors all gave it rave reviews, noting the "quality work."

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But the Hubbard County Board of Adjustment gave it the thumbs down Monday because of a yellow piece of paper in the corner of a window on the main floor.

The piece of paper was a building permit that states a 30-by-40 foot garage was to be erected on the spot.

"The building permit said no living quarters. What happened?" BOA member Lou Schwindt asked Hagert Monday.

The spacious addition above the garage contains bedrooms and would have eventually had a bathroom, but the board nixed that idea, too, by putting the kibosh on a tank septic system proposed for the property.

"You couldn't have a guest house anywhere on that property," Schwindt said, noting the lot lacked the required residential lot suitable area. And it's too close to the lake, BOA members voted, chastising Hagert and his builder, Barry Munson.

Munson seemed stunned by the action.

"You did everything wrong here," BOA member Earl Benson said. "I feel that building should be torn down or moved back to the setback."

Coalition of Lake Association members universally opposed Hagert's request for an after-the-fact permit to make the garage into a guest cabin.

"You have a situation you've already recognized," said Long Lake resident Bill Cowman. "There are multiple violations." Craftsmanship is not the point, he added.

Munson said he measured and re-measured the garage site. One low spot in the yard, according to the board, indicated the garage encroached on the lake's ordinary high water mark.

"I had no reason to suspect this was a swamp," Munson told the board, noting the building had expressly stayed out of an obvious wetland area.

He followed the site plan on the building permit, he repeatedly said. "The setbacks exceeded what's needed," he mentioned several times.

"Is the structure illegal?" he kept asking the board, getting no definitive answer.

Munson said he "was thrilled to have the work" when he was asked to build the structure under the assumption Hagert's permit would be upgraded to accommodate a living site. The construction business has been slow otherwise.

The permit was never upgraded due to a miscommunication between Hagert and Munson.

And the two men left the meeting mystified as to what exactly was illegal about the garage/guest house.

"We had no reason to suspect the lawn was in the ordinary high water mark," Munson said. This year, everyone's lawns are saturated, he said.

"This addition is in the shore impact zone, is too large and he wants a variance to keep it there," Benson said.

The home above the garage far exceeds the 700 square footage of a guest cabin, BOA members said, and the lot is too small for the building.

"The permit wasn't granted for living quarters or a deck," BOA member Charles Knight said. "I can't go along with what you're saying or doing." At that point, the setback issue was immaterial, Knight said.

"The county needs to draw a line in the sand with these ordinances," board chair Jerry Cole said.

The board denied an after-the-fact permit to leave the structure where it was and will turn the matter over to the county attorney and Environmental Services Office to handle.

The board also denied Hagert's request for a holding tank septic system to service the addition because a drain field wasn't possible.

Munson left the meeting concerned at board implications there may have been negligence in the building - especially when he followed the permit specifications.

"The water level is up but it's still 150 feet from Deer Lake and 200 feet from Shallow," Munson said.

Hagert said the fault was his and that the structure originally was used for storage. His family then needed additional sleeping area, he said. The addition proceeded.

"He still has a beautiful residence and a three-car garage," Cole said of Hagert.

In other action, the board:

n Approved a variance request by Ardeth and Everette Duthoy to construct a home on a Lake Belle Taine lot that lacked the required setback.

That was over the objections of COLA members and DNR Fisheries supervisor Doug Kingsley, who noted the lake level was rising again.

Property setbacks should be "held to a very high standard," he said. This setback is 64 feet, not 100 feet as required under the shoreland ordinances.

"A lot of the problems were because people built too close to the lake," COLA president Dan Kittilson said of the record lake levels achieved a decade ago when many Belle Taine properties flooded. "It should be moved back as far as possible and the reduce the size of the structure."

But Benson said in visiting the lot, "there's a four- to six-foot drop-off at the shoreline."

The setback was re- measured. Initially at 53 feet, it is now 64 feet because of the fluctuating lake level.

n Approved a variance request by Larry and Claudia Sundquist to adjust a property line between their home and the Rockwood Township Cemetery. One corner of their home ended up on cemetery property due to a surveying error.

The couple and the township agreed to exchange equal sized pieces of property and jog the boundary line over on the two non-conforming riparian lots on Lake Plantagenet. The board commended the couple for working out a solution to the property line dispute themselves.

n Denied 3-2 an after-the-fact variance request by Thomas Fox et al to keep a 12-by-12-foot covered entryway above a deck. The deck had been permitted in 1995 on the Shallow Lake cabin, representative Rick Knowlton said. The porch was added on top of the deck in 2003.

Board members said they were making a tough choice. "I don't have a problem with a little bit of shelter over the doorway but a 12-by-12 is a little too large," Schwindt said.

Knowlton said because the homeowners didn't build the addition to the 50 percent over the existing living space they could have in 1995, they thought they could add the porch and still be in compliance.

The 1995 building permit condition had stated the lot could not ever be added onto.

COLA member Janine Wiedeman urged the board to deny it. "The landowner created the need for the variance by violating the condition" not to add on, she said.

"The applicant knew about the condition in place and built anyway," she said. "People can't do something illegally and then be excused for doing it."

She urged the board to follow the ordinance, which it did in ordering Knowlton to remove the porch.

Benson objected, saying the board has made exceptions like this to "non-lakeside" additions.

"Many times we've allowed an addition as long as it's not closer to the lake," Benson objected.

n Approved a variance request by Raymond and Cheryl Kangas to add a garage to a nonconforming lot that wouldn't meet the 10-foot side lot setback. The affected neighbor said she had no objection to the addition on Lake Belle Taine. The board said there was nowhere else on the property to locate a garage.

n Approved a request by Happy Days Resort to build a new lodge on West Crooked Lake, as long as owners Brian and Heidi Wormley moved the structure back six feet, putting it beyond a 50-foot setback.

COLA member Chuck Diessner objected, saying West Crooked is a natural environment lake that requires a 75-foot setback.

"The new (variance) law makes it difficult to accommodate the applicant," he said. "There is no legitimate practical difficulty here."

Diessner said the resort could rebuild the lodge, but there was no authority to expand it. Brian Wormley said the couple wanted to change the roof pitch to make snow removal easier, and move the basement away from the rising water table.

They also wanted to add a handicapped entryway and bathroom.

"Moving the lodge elsewhere would be a safety concern," Cole said, noting the high traffic volume in the area. "It's difficult for me not to accept the handicapped accessibility."

n Approved a request by Henry and Ellen Dubinski to build a guest cabin over their garage. Because the garage footprint exceeds the 700 square foot size for a guest cabin, even though the actual addition would be 698 square feet, the family still needed a variance.

n Tabled a request by Eagle's Landing Resort to place seven dock slips at the residential planned unit development. The resort owners had requested the case be heard in September.

The conversion is the subject of a lawsuit currently before the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

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Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers Hubbard County, courts and breaking news.

(218) 732-3364
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