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BOA, COLA spar over comment rules; new board coming

The faces of Hubbard County's Board of Adjustment are changing but the fireworks with COLA representatives remain the same.

Monday COLA member Chuck Diessner had two heated exchanges with the board when his remarks were cut off mid-sentence.

The Coalition of Lake Associations representative was objecting to a Grace Lake variance request that was ultimately denied, when he was told his three minutes of commentary were up.

"Did you clock it?" Diessner asked interim board chair Tom Krueger.

"I've been watching the clock," Krueger retorted, nodding at the clock on the wall above the podium where Diessner was standing. When it became apparent the meeting was progressing, Diessner gave up and sat down.

After the meeting, Diessner said the three-minute policy "is wrong. Every time I stand up to talk you cut me off," he complained, suggesting the board was imposing the policy on him only.

"I let one guy go on for five minutes," Krueger acknowledged.

"These are important issues," Diessner continued. "We have the right to speak."

"You are," Environmental Services Officer Eric Buitenwerf interjected.

"I was asked a question," Diessner objected. "I was cut off. This is not welcoming people to come and talk about issues critical to our lakefront" development.

Diessner said he would take up his objection with the county board and try to get the comment period lengthened.

It was the second of two Grace Lake variance requests that bothered Diessner. But it bothers board members, too.

"We need to put in a public sewer system there," outgoing member Charles Knight said. "Grace Lake in itself is a city. We run into these problems all the time."

The small lake in northern Hubbard County is heavily populated with little old cabins on tiny lots. As more residents come before the board with requests to upgrade, the board is grappling with additions to cabins that are already too large for the lots, with inserting septic systems on the tiny lot space and with setbacks just off the water's edge.

Such was the case Monday.

n The board denied a variance request by Bethany Bible Camp to place an addition onto an existing building on the lake.

The addition exceeded the size under the county's Shoreland Management Ordinance. It would be attached to a 70-year-old structure.

Buitenwerf's office recommended denying the request because there is ample room on the lot to put the structure out of the shore impact zone.

Representatives of the camp did not attend the meeting.

n The second request was by Barry and Lisa Royce to build a new home, garage and deck in the shore impact zone of Grace Lake. The structures would have exceeded the 25 percent impervious surface allowed. The deck would have been 20 feet from the lakeshore, with the cabin 30 feet off the water.

While board members discussed the septic system and whether a cabin should be slab on grade, Diessner stood up to voice his objection.

"What's concerning to me and is a critical aspect no one's talking about is that this building is in the shore impact zone," Diessner noted, quoting a comment made by Knight a couple years ago that the shore impact zone "is sacrosanct."

"This board has never allowed it," Diessner said.

"Is it unique to the land?" he questioned. "This is created by the landowner. You can't work backwards, determine what the landowner wants and fit it on the lot," Diessner continued. "I cannot even fathom you're even considering this."

Krueger said any landowner has the right to bring a request before the board.

When Diessner pointed out that "everyone who has come before this board (with similar requests) has been denied," Krueger told him his time was up.

The board ended up denying the request because it was too big for the lot. Board members told Barry Royce they would consider a scaled-down plan.

In other business, the board:

n Granted 5-0 a request by Mike Markman to take out a retaining wall and steps of rotted railroad ties and replace them with concrete block steps on his Potato Lake home.

"I think it's a good thing," Knight said. The project was curing chronic runoff and getting the creosote ties away from the water, he pointed out.

n Denied 5-0 a request by Lawrence and Denyse Kramer for a proposed garage addition and driveway on their Big Mantrap Lake home.

Neither would comply with a required 10-foot lot side setback, the ESO staff said.

"The neighbors have an expectation of a 10-foot setback," Krueger said when Lawrence Kramer questioned a letter from one neighbor that didn't wholly support the request.

"I have an equal access right to the driveway," Kramer said.

The board denied the request on staff recommendations "because there appears to be room to add a third bay to the garage on the side of the garage facing the house," the staff report indicated. "An addition in this direction could be done by permit," without a variance needed.

n Approved a variance request by Michael and Janet Nepsund to build a new home on Eagle Lake that would be 70 feet from the water's edge.

The couple had been granted a variance in 2005 for the same setback, but wished to build a bigger home than that proposed seven years ago.

Mike Nepsund said he's also been granted a variance in 1983 to place two homes on the lot. He offered to exchange those two variances, both of which he said were still viable, for permission to build a home with a main floor bedroom and laundry room.

"If I sold the property someone could go in there and exercise both," Nepsund pointed out.

n Approved 5-0 a request by Mary Kirchner to create two riparian lots on Kabekona Lake that would fall a few feet short of the 150-foot width at the ordinary high water mark.

"I don't think a matter of a few inches if a big deal," Knight said.

When the meeting concluded, Knight announced his retirement after 20 years on the board.

Board of Adjustment members serve at the please of the county commissioner in their district. Knight was appointed by outgoing commissioner Lyle Robinson. Robinson's replacement, Dan Stacey, will make new appointments to both the BOA and Planning Commission at today's county board meeting.

"It's been fun and worrisome," Knight said.

He admonished the board not to make decisions until after the site visitation of the properties and after hearing the presentations to the board, because the reasons for the variance might not be obvious on paper with the initial request.

"Lyle Robinson never asked me to vote one way or another," Knight said his instructions were. "He said to be fair. It's been a good 20 years."

He expressed appreciation of the ESO staff and Buitenwerf.

Member Earl Benson submitted his resignation last month. His replacement, Charlene Christenson, begins in December.

Sarah Smith

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

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