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Suit filed against County Board of Adjustment

This garage with housing above it is the subject of a lawsuit filed against the Hubbard County Board of Adjustment by a Grand Forks couple.

The Hubbard County Board of Adjustment met Monday, but the important news wasn't on the agenda.

It was the announcement by BOA chair Jerry Cole that "we're being sued" by a Grand Forks man who built living quarters above a garage on Deer and Shallow lakes without a permit.

The county's Environmental Services Office sent David and Karen Hagert a letter earlier this fall ordering them to tear down the $400,000 structure or move it into compliance.

The Hagerts responded by filing suit Sept. 12. The garage addition has been the object of much speculation since Hagert was summoned before the board in August.

He apologized for the oversight in not getting a permit. He and his builder were under the impression they met all setback requirements and appeared before the board to obtain septic system approval and an after-the-fact variance for the guest quarters above the garage.

During Monday's meeting, the board granted an after-the-fact variance to Dale and Carole Heuer, who replaced their paver block platform with a wood deck. Their Lake Belle Taine structure is non-conforming and any improvements to such a structure require a new application.

Dale Heuer said he wasn't aware of that and simply replaced the existing platform where the old one was rotting out. Water was getting into his crawl space, he said.

"I realize there's difficulty with these after-the-fact variances," said Hubbard County COLA president Dan Kittilson, pointing out that more than 50 percent of ATF requests are granted by the board.

He expressed some frustration that "people take a chance. They'd rather ask for forgiveness than permission," he said.

He urged the board to "get something in return" for granting ATF requests such as rain gardens, shoreline buffers or measures that ameliorate the violation.

Dale Heuer said he'd done just that by planting 20 trees.

"Removing that shed from the shoreline improved the looks of it," BOA member Earl Benson said of the property.

The board granted the new dock.

"Replacing what was already there is reasonable," BOA member Lou Schwindt said.

The Coalition of Lake Associations has been monitoring BOA meetings for more than a year and is involved in another lawsuit with the board over its handling of a common interest community conversion two years ago on 5th Crow Wing Lake.

In other business, the board:

n Approved a tabled request by Dean and Margaret Halverson to subdivide a conforming non-riparian lot on their Long Lake property and create two non-conforming lots.

The reason was to give their neighbors room for a septic system drain field. The board encouraged agent Bill Cowman to see if the arrangement could be accomplished through an easement. Cowman said that was not possible.

"As long as the small tract (26,000 square feet) remains for septic only, I'm OK with it," Schwindt said. "I wouldn't want to pay taxes with someone else's septic" system on the lot.

"I don't see the fairness in that," Schwindt said.

But Cowman said the neighbors had reached an accord that worked for them and the board granted the formation of the split off lot.

n Granted part of a request by Gregg and Charlotte Appel to build a third stall garage onto their Long Lake property that would encroach slightly on the road setback.

But the board nixed the Appels' proposal for a lakeside platform that would have encroached into the 100-foot ordinary high water setback on one corner.

Cowman, a COLA member and the Appel's agent, said approximately 115 square feet of the deck would be in the shore impact zone.

"He's hoping for a grade level so he can use the walkout," Cowman explained of the plan.

But the board held the line, reasoning that new construction should meet all aspects of the shoreland management ordinance. The deck was denied 5-0.

n Approved a request by LeRoy and Bonnie Phyle to place an 8-by-16-foot camper on their Shallow Lake lot with a self-contained septic system.

The Nevis couple said they use the trailer for camping only and only live a half-mile away.

A trailer had previously been on the lot closer than the 150-foot setback allowed.

"This was established long before the rules came out," BOA member Charles Knight reasoned. Shallow Lake, a natural environment lake, carries a larger setback from the high water mark than recreational lots, 150 feet versus 100 feet.

A hearing is set in the Hagert case for Jan. 5, 2012. Trial is set for July 20, 2012.

Sarah Smith

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

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