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Board of Adjustment looks at after-the-fact violations

Sins of the fathers, mothers and sellers dominated the Board of Adjustment agenda Monday as homeowners went before the board to try to explain what they'd inherited or bought into.

Grace Lake homeowner Judy DeMers, who lives in Grand Forks, led off the agenda with a request for permission to build an addition and deck onto her nonconforming structure. In the process of her permit application and early construction, the Environmental Services Office discovered a deck built in 1994 that jutted into the shoreline impact zone on the front of the home.

DeMers explained that her ailing mother likely built the deck with help from the neighbors or local carpenters without a permit. So she was before the board requesting an after-the-fact variance and a new one for the proposed addition to the side of the cabin.

Board members explained the 12-by-12 deck encroached too far toward the lake and should be cut back to a 4-foot walkway.

Most Grace Lake cabins were built right on the lakeshore many years ago.

"We do our best to keep people out of the first 50 feet," board member Charles Knight told DeMers.

"We have 318 lakes in this county and everybody would like to do it," board member Jerry Cole said.

"What do we say to the next 100 people that want to do this?" board member Earl Benson asked DeMers.

Grace Lake Association president Richard Black attended the meeting with DeMers.

He pointed out that most Grace Lake residents have brick or concrete patios in the shore impact zone, many closer than DeMers' deck, which sits off the ground. Most are not porous like the DeMers deck, he said.

"I understand you guys' concerns," Black told the board. "I understand water quality. This is better than 95 percent of the neighbors. She's a very good steward of the lake."

Gary Stolzenberg, a member of the Hubbard County Coalition of Lake Associations, said it is "quite reasonable to do some limitations" to the front deck since the side deck would also be partially in the shore impact zone.

"You may need to bargain some things away to allow some things to happen," he urged both sides.

The board denied the after-the-fact variance for the protruding front deck and ordered it to be cut to a 4-foot walkway by Sept. 1, but allowed the proposed addition.

Black and DeMers seemed unhappy at the decision.

"Are you going to go around and check all the other decks?" he asked. "If I gave you a list of 500 decks would you go check them?"

"If they are legitimate concerns, yes," replied Environmental Services Officer Eric Buitenwerf.

In other action, the board:

n Approved a variance seeking a "buildable" designation for two nonconforming lots on Island Lake, near 3rd Crow Wing Lake the owners want to develop at Crow Wing Island View.

Owners Greg and Mary Marotte commissioned a new survey for the parcels, only to discover the old survey had missed the mark on all of the lots in the subdivision.

"They're so close to being conforming I don't have a problem with it," said Benson, noting that one boundary line was 6 inches off.

A lengthy letter by neighboring resident Craig Handel questioned the board's authority to "change property lines and boundaries."

"We are not concerned with any issues in this letter," Cole said. "Our concern is whether Lots 8 and 9 are 'buildable.'"

Handel said developing the nonconforming lots would make the density too concentrated and he worried each of the 15 lot owners would then want docks built onto the lake.

Cole moved to approve the variance. "The variation is minuscule," he said, "The earlier error in surveys created the problem."

n Heard another after-the-fact request from David and Theresa Olson, who have a cabin on Happy Drive on Pickerel Lake.

The couple tore down an 8-foot deck, and going off the original cabin measurements, then replaced it with a 10-foor wide deck without a permit.

The deck is now partially encroaching on the required setback.

David Olson said he got the cabin from his father, who put four additions and a garage onto the cabin all without permits.

"We didn't think to remeasure it," he said. The drawings showed the cabin 110 feet from the lake.

Board members debated whether to condition approving a variance for the deck on Olsons obtaining all the permits to bring the structure into compliance.

"I don't think that's our job," Benson said. "That's between them and Eric."

The board approved the deck. Olsons independently agreed to get all the overdue permits.

n Approved a variance for an addition to a cabin on Beechwood Estates on Island Lake.

Owners Larry and Karen Krekow drew groans from the board when they explained they needed to add on to a bedroom that is 7-by-8 feet.

"We can't even get a chair in the room to put clothes on," Larry Krekow said. The bed is pushed up against the wall to get into, the couple said.

The board also questioned the deck, which is 26 feet from the lakeshore.

"We bought it that way," Krekow said. "It's probably 50 years old."

Buitenwerf said the platform was grandfathered in when the Planned Unit Development was created many years ago.

"A 7-by-8 bedroom is reason enough" to grant the variance, Knight told the couple, to snickers of laughter from the board.

Sarah Smith

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

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