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Variance board bans lakeshore encroachment

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Variance board bans lakeshore encroachment
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

There may be a civics lesson in a case that appeared before the Board of Adjustment Monday: If you demand an answer, be prepared when it's not what you came to hear.


In a contentious 50-minute hearing, Eleventh Crow Wing homeowner Jodi Gilyard, a Twin Cities woman who owns a lot on Pine Ridge Shores, was not happy when the board tried to table her after-the-fact request to leave a home in a bluff impact zone. She had also requested two variances to build a new structure in that same area with a walkout platform that would necessitate the removal of 700 cubic yards of fill from that bluff.

"I drove up here 3½, 4 hours to have a decision, not table it," she complained to the board. "We're being told by the county this is what we have to build and where to build it. You cannot put any type of house on it."

Board members had suggested tabling the request to see if the new home could be located elsewhere on the lot that wouldn't entail the excavation.

But Gilyard demanded repeatedly to know if the lot was "buildable," a question board chair Lou Schwindt answered yes to each time.

"It may not be the house you want to build on this lot," but the lot can be built on, Schwindt said.

"The sketch we saw is not acceptable," Schwindt said. "The existing house needs to be moved 30 feet out of the bluff impact zone."

Board members suggested Gilyard bring in a plan that would relocate the garage to the side of the house so the excavation wouldn't be necessary.

Gilyard, who requested being moved to the front of the board's agenda after a 90-minute hearing on another matter, refused.

"Is the county going to draw up how we build?" the frustrated lot owner asked.

"It's up to you" to determine what house will work on the space available, Schwindt told her.

Gilyard said she bought the lot without knowing there were actually two bluffs on the property and located a temporary home on one of the bluffs. She asked for permission to leave it there until she built new.

In the end the board denied both variances and ordered Gilyard to remove the temporary home off the bluff within 60 days.

In other action the board:

n Tabled a request by Linda Eklund for a proposed two-story addition in the shore impact zone of Potato Lake when it was revealed the structure would actually be a new dwelling, not an addition.

Nels Peterson, who presented the proposal, admitted the desire was "to tear down all the way to the foundation. I'm here requesting more than I assume you're comfortable with."

"Based on what he said, reconstruction was not in the original request," said Environmental Services Officer Eric Buitenwerf

"The board can consider it but we must re-notify the surrounding property owners and amend the application," Buitenwerf suggested.

"We weren't trying to hide anything," Peterson said. It became apparent during the planning stages the older house might not survive the construction work to build the addition, he said.

"With old structures there's nothing left to add on to," Schwindt agreed. "But if you move it back to the 100 foot setback you won't have to come back" for a variance.

n Encouraged a Lake George homeowner to withdraw his variance application when it was determined he had not violated a bluff impact zone requirement when he built a deck onto a nonconforming structure. It was initially believed the deck had been expanded too much, but it was within the ordinance size allowed. Steven Nyhammer will get a refund for his variance fee and apply for an after-the-fact building permit for the deck.

n Approved the realignment of a property line on Lake Belle Taine that would result in one lot becoming more nonconforming. Phyllis Ann Klein has sold the property but wanted 14 feet from the adjoining property. The board granted her request when it was determined it would have no affect on the septic system drain field setback.

n Approved a variance request on Big Bass Lake to build a new home on the same footprint, but with 12 feet more room.

John and Karen Hellie and Randy Piasecki had requested the variance on a former government lot and cabin when they were told to take down the privy that serves the cabin.

"The state made the lot size," said board member Charles Knight. "They have a problem here."

The new structure would be within the 100-foot ordinary high water setback.

"They're doing the best they can" with the lot, board member Jerry Cole said. "Everybody deserves to have a bathroom."

n Approved a request by Chuck and Sharon Johnson to build a garage on their Lake Belle Taine property at less than the 20-foot road right-of-way setback and less than 10 feet from the side lot line. Johnson told the board the lot was fan-shaped, which gave the couple few options about the garage, and the neighbor did not object to the garage's placement.

n Approved a variance request by Carol Anne Kummer for an addition to a non-conforming structure in the shore impact zone previously approved by a variance. She said she wants to build a kitchen on her Steamboat Lake home.

Kummer praised Buitenwerf and his office for their "due diligence" in working with her to get the plan approved.

n Denied a variance to Charles and Kris Markham for a proposed lakeward addition to their home and a second addition to the rear of the Hinds Lake structure that would exceed the 50 percent maximum addition allowed.

The Markhams withdrew the variance request for the addition because it would not exceed the 50 percent limit.

"I don't like the idea of building closer to the lake," said board member Earl Benson.

Charles Markham said there presently is a concrete platform and wooden deck the family wants to cover.

"The impact to the lake is none," he said, pointing out there would be no additional impervious surface to drain into the lake. He said his neighbors are closer to the shoreline than his home, which sits 98 feet from the lake.

"You can't compare what everybody else has done," Schwindt said "The feet closer makes the house more nonconforming than it is. Encroaching closer to the lake is why I have a problem with it."

After the agenda was finished, Cole expressed some concern about a lawsuit facing the board and threats of more to come.

He asked if the board had a conflict of interest policy because he said he sits on numerous boards.

COLA member Gary Stoltzenberg said although he didn't agree with it, there is no recusal for conflicts of interest at this point under Minnesota law. A recusal is a self-removal process when a member of a governmental body feels he or she cannot render a decision in a matter before them.

Sarah Smith
Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.
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