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Menahga Council approves variance in shoreline district

The Menahga City Council has granted a variance to allow the construction of a building on a lot within the shoreland district.

The property, owned by Keith and Jensine Kurtti, is located at 217 Aspen Avenue SW, near the city beach and tennis courts near Spirit Lake.

The variance was required because the building will mean more than 30 percent of the lot will have an impervious surface, which deviates from the zoning ordinance.

At a public hearing Monday, planning commission chairman Jerry Wisuri said that in order to recommend a variance the commission needs to follow the three-factor test to determine whether there is undue hardship.

The first factor is whether the property cannot be put to a reasonable use without a variance. The second factor is whether the property has unique physical characteristics to be considered to determine the need. The third factor addresses whether the variance would alter the essential nature of the locality.

A letter from city attorney Jeff Pederson mentioned a Minnesota Supreme Court decision in the case of Krummenacher vs. the city of Minnetonka. In that case, Pederson said the Supreme Court laid down a very restrictive rule as to when a city can grant a variance from its zoning ordinance. The Supreme Court ruled that in order to obtain a municipal variance, an applicant must establish that "the property in question cannot be put to a reasonable use if used under the conditions allowed by the official controls."

Pederson advised the city to ask the property owners to submit additional information to support meeting the strict standard.

Members of the planning commission also discussed a recent lawsuit against Cormorant Township in Becker County. The township was sued by the Department of Natural Resources for allowing a property owner to build a house 14 feet from Ida Lake.

The Menahga property already has 52 percent impervious surface. The proposed structure is 60 by 40 feet and would increase the impervious surface of the lot to 72 percent. Jensine Kurtti said she planned to have a rain garden to help with runoff. Kurtti mentioned the new building would be rental.

She met with a Department of Natural Resources official and planning commission member Roger Henstorf about the impervious surface questions. Kurtti said the DNR was fine with the plan but the city has yet to receive paperwork stating an opinion on the impervious surface issue.

Interim city clerk Susie Larson said three letters have been sent to the DNR requesting a response but there has been no response.

The council determined there was undue hardship and granted the request.

Councilman Joel Mickelson said he thought that the lack of response by the DNR likely meant there was no problem with the request.

The shoreland district refers to land within 1,000 feet of a lake and 300 feet of a river, according to the DNR. Impervious surface requirements are a way to limit stormwater runoff.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561