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Board of Adjustment gets tongue-lashing, then praise

Paul and Linda Reimer were not happy with Hubbard County's Board of Adjustment, even though members approved an after-the-fact request to leave a guest house on their Midge Lake property. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Hubbard County Board of Adjustment members probably left Monday's meeting thinking someone had painted bullseyes on their backs.

A Midge Lake couple whose after-the-fact variance was approved for a guest cottage found time nonetheless to chew out the Hubbard County Board of Adjustment, mainly over things beyond the board's control.

"I didn't ask for a variance," an angry Paul Reimer opened his request with. "The county decided I needed one."

Reimer and wife Linda constructed a guest cabin on four acres of land, apparently unaware the Shoreland Management Ordinance governs all building 1,000 feet within a lake's shoreline

"It isn't even on the lake," Paul Reimers disagreed. "Farden Township told me I didn't need a permit."

He said he has a doublewide trailer on the lot and asked about moving a second one onto the lot.

"I don't understand this stupidness going on," he said. "Now you guys want $50 (in permit fees) for a fish house and $200 for a lean-to. I thought you guys worked for us..."

BOA member Ken Grob suggested "it's not to your advantage to have a confrontational exchange" with the board overseeing his request.

"I suppose with the right amount of money you could do anything," Reimer said accusatorily.

"We're not here to discuss your fish house or lean-to," member Earl Benson said.

The lot lacks the required lakeshore footage to put a guest cabin on, Environmental Services staff recommended. The Reimer lot is 150 feet wide. But the staff said the length was more than ample to permit the density in housing if the lot is never subdivided.

"It makes sense to allow the guest cottage to remain the size it is," the staff report recommended.

But Reimer kept arguing the permit costs of the buildings on the lot placed there without permission.

BOA chair Lou Schwindt suggested the Reimers take that argument up with the county board or state legislature. He said the BOA's only role is to enforce laws written by others.

Paul Reimer wasn't mollified.

"We're on Social Security," he objected. "We don't have money for this going on. I'm not paying no $50 for a chicken coop and $200 for a lean-to."

"Arguing with us doesn't help at all," Schwindt said. "We can't change the rules."

Paul Reimer said he understands that lakeshore rules have to be obeyed so toxic substances can't be introduced into a lake.

Environmental Services Officer Eric Butenwerf said the fish house was being used as a chicken coop.

"You know what I think of his department," Reimer said, turning to the board. "We pay them to argue and fight with us."

Reimer wondered why the environmental specialist who'd found the violation didn't appear before the board, too.

In the end the board allowed the guest cottage to remain and did not deal with the permit issues.

But for the board, that was just the beginning of a meeting marked by perturbed property owners.

In a lengthy exchange with Grace Lake homeowners Michael and Julie Marino, the board finally tabled a variance request the two sides couldn't agree on.

The Marinos were granted a variance to rebuild the aging home two years ago, but presented revised plans when they revisited the BOA Monday on a new request.

They'd downscaled the house plans while making the design more affordable, Mike Marino explained. He and the board differed as to their interpretation of the SMO.

The couple asked to build on the same foundation, while bumping a bedroom wall out to accommodate the more compact design that would cover an existing concrete stoop.

The bump-out was lakeward. The board objected. The Marinos seemed astounded a small addition toward the lake would be objectionable and the 2012 BOA would consider overruling a decision by the same board in 2010.

"I understand responsible management and the burden to the homeowner, Mike Marino objected. "But what we're asking for is not unreasonable."

The couple said it would put them to an extreme financial hardship to fill in the old foundation, move the house back to the 100-foot setback and dig a second basement just to satisfy the board.

"The footprint occupies different ground, moves the home closer to the lake," Buitenwerf explained.

"Right now you're asking for more foundation closer to the lake, not using the original foundation you got permission for," BOA member Charles Knight said to the frustrated homeowners.

Julie Marino explained the house as the board wished it to sit "would be smack dab in front of our cabin," which the couple had hoped to rent out.

"Are we encroaching any further lakeward?" Schwindt asked of the three-part request to build a new home, storage structure and deck all within the 100-feet setback on Grace Lake. Mike Marino responded affirmatively

"You're better off to live with the old variance than you are to run this through the board a second time," Schwindt added. "If you can make it smaller and not move it lakeward...the smaller you make it the happier we'll be."

The Marinos and their builder pressed the board for assurances the matter would pass next month after they make the recommended changes, but board members did not provide such guarantees.

The matter will be rescheduled for October. The couple and builder left the room shaking their heads, wondering why the old variance, which appeared to be more liberal, was OK while the new one was not.

Mike Marino complained that the board needed to be consistent in its treatment of variance requests.

In other business the board:

n Approved a variance request by Scott Rech for a proposed access route to his property on Dead and Ojibway lakes that wouldn't meet the 100-foot ordinary high water mark setback. The variance was presented under another application earlier this summer.

Rech said he wants to move some fill from the high spots on the lot to the lower ones.

Member Ken Grob said he'd go along with the request as long as the reshaped roadway wouldn't cause additional erosion into the lakes.

n Approved a request by Lee Helgen to construct a carport over a travel trailer on Lake Ida's bluff impact zone. The lot slopes drastically and due to a change in the definition of a bluff top, the trailer had become nonconforming over time. The BOA also permitted a 15-foot retaining wall to reinforce the carport.

n Approved an addition to the back of a cabin owned by George and Gudrun Peterson to their Long Lake cabin. The owners did not attend the meeting.

n Approved a variance request by Jack and Cynthia Slovik for a proposed deck expansion of a lakeside deck that didn't meet size or setback requirements. The couple agreed to a condition that would not allow an increase of the old deck's surface area, and agreed to remove a screened porch and shed be removed from the property on Lake Belle Taine.

n Approved a variance for Michael and Charmaine Munt to add on to a nonconforming cabin on Duck Lake that doesn't meet the 100-foot setback. The couple agreed to place a 15-foot wide buffer zone along the lakeshore running the length of the property except for the dock and boat access. That, the board agreed, would mitigate the home's impact on the lake since it sits 56 feet offshore.

nApproved a request by Richard and Eunice Rothermel to add onto a nonconforming structure at their Potato Lake home. The board reasoned since the addition was out of the bluff impact zone, away from the lake and wouldn't cause drainage issues, it was acceptable.

n Tabled a request by Edward Marthaler to build a new structure on his Grace Lake lot that would be 36 feet high and have a lakeside deck and platform 21 feet from the ordinary high watermark.

The board questioned whether the structure could be moved back to the 100-foot mark without depriving Marthalers of "line-of-sight" views.

Most cabins, including Marthalers' neighbors, are 50-60 feet from the water's edge, and while board members agreed moving the home back to the 100-foot level might create "tunnel vision," they suggested a compromise might be acceptable.

A neighbor worried about snow runoff to his roof, which encroaches on the Marthalers' property line.

Marthaler worried that moving the structure back to the 100-foot mark would cause encroachment issues on the roadway behind the lot.

After much discussion, the two sides agreed to table the request to next month.

Then Marthaler said something that was music to the board's ears.

"I appreciate what you guys do," he said. "It's not an easy job."

Sarah Smith

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

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