County hearing elicits changes

Hubbard County Commissioners listened to comments on proposed changes to the countywide subdivision ordinance for two and a half hours Monday night. The greatly expanded ordinance covers riparian and nonriparian subdivisions. Proposed amendments ...

Hubbard County Commissioners listened to comments on proposed changes to the countywide subdivision ordinance for two and a half hours Monday night.

The greatly expanded ordinance covers riparian and nonriparian subdivisions. Proposed amendments to the county's shoreland management ordinance will refer to the subdivision ordinance.

The intent is to bring uniform standards to subdivisions countywide, Eric Buitenwerf, Environmental Services officer, explained at the hearing.

Lots created within the jurisdiction of the shoreland management ordinance (1,000 feet from a lake, 500 feet from a river) will still need to comply with the ordinances' minimum lot size requirements.

Outside those boundaries, a lot may be subdivided into two lots, each less than five acres in size, or into five lots, each more than five acres in size. No more than five such lots may be created without platting.


Monday night, Buitenwerf summarized some of the proposed changes. The draft, he said, is requiring space for two septic sites, legal access to the nearest public road and two options regarding roads, either a private road with a 66-foot right-of-way that is commonly owned or a public road with a 66-foot right-of-way.

In either case - private or public - several developers and property owners lobbied against requiring a 66-foot right-of-way.

Developer John Zacher went to a blackboard to illustrate his objections, saying that in some cases the road requirement might reduce the number of lots that could be carved out of a parcel because it could reduce the buildable area.

Dan Edstrom, a Nevis Township supervisor, didn't like the plan either. "Isn't a private road a driveway and why are we setting standards for a driveway?" he asked.

Buitenwerf noted there are no criteria for the width of the road top for a private road. The proposal would just require the right-of-way to be set aside. It doesn't have to be cleared.

Buyer beware

"You can buy on that kind of a lot (one with a public road) or a more private, secluded one," said county commissioner Lyle Robinson, explaining property owners have to petition to convert a private road to a public one.

Speaking as zoning administrator Mantrap Township, Nancy Carroll said the township was happy to see a 66-foot ingress and egress as the minimum standard, but is concerned there is no mention of a minimum road surface.


Carroll suggested the lack of a minimum will allow a savings to developers at the expense of new owners who will have to invest in an improvement sometime in the future.

"People from urban or suburban settings are used to paved roads that are maintained so it seems misleading to purchasers," she said.

Carroll said she thinks the township's opinion is the roads should be public. "If roads have shared owners, does it men they will work together and maintain that road?"

Chairman Floyd Frank pointed out townships can't be forced to take over any road that isn't brought up to standards, but he admitted there have been cases where the situation has presented a dilemma.

Frank said the board would look at it. "I agree you will need to do it as a group," he said. "If you're the only one living there in the wintertime, the others may not want to pay for plowing."

Carroll said the township is "very concerned roads should safely accommodate any emergency vehicle." She mentioned ambulances, fire trucks and school buses. "Will they be able to get back in there if it's only a private road?"

Robinson said it's up to buyers. "They have a choice. They can buy another place. ... In most cases, people would rather drive around a tree than take it down," he said.

"All over the county people build decks around pine trees. Lyle hit it right on," said Frank. "They like it as secluded as they can get."


"People are moving here to get away from people, not to be close to them," Robinson agreed.

Avoid ambiguity

Another provision of the proposed ordinance that bothered developers was an open-ended statement in preliminary plat requirements.

At the end of a list of requirements for identification and description, existing features and conditions and proposed features in conditions, a sentence states "other information as required by Hubbard County."

Surveyor Lowell Schellack and developers agreed the statement is problematic.

Among other objections, Schellack said it would make it difficult to bid a project since there is no way to know how much it might cost to provide the "other information."

Zacher agreed, saying he'd rather know up front. "If you want a wetland delineation, lay it out now. Don't leave it up in the air. Let people know in advance what they're gong to have to do so it's not a moving target," Zacher said.

He suggested the board take more time and put a committee together to lay out the rules.


"It would be better to know and not have a catch-all," Schellack agreed.

"A catch-all is common in other ordinances," Buitenwerf said.

"Things can change between different board members and administrators and we don't want it to be ambiguous," Frank agreed.

No direction was given during the hearing on how the board wanted to proceed.

Other concerns

Several other provisions of the ordinance drew comments. Among them were:

n A provision leaving it up to commissioners whether a preliminary plat would need to include topographic data showing contour intervals of 2 feet or 10 feet. Schellack said there is a significant difference in the cost.

"We would have to have an awful good reason to do it, but we need to stop creating lots that aren't buildable," Robinson said.


n The addition of rules regarding utilities crossing roads was discussed. The ordinance doesn't address them. Edstrom said the township would like to see something, a requirement for utilities to give notice at the minimum. He said last summer the township rebuilt a road at great cost and soon afterward, utility companies had put "three humps in it" where they'd buried lines.

Commissioners said they didn't think the subdivision ordinance could address the issue, but it might be feasible to draft another ordinance that would.

n A requirement to provide a certificate of survey. Schellack said the certificate is copyrighted, belongs to the property owner and is not supposed to be public information. "All that's filed at the courthouse is the legal description," he said.

Frank said the requirement is added because there have been a number of cases where buyers have ended up with nonconforming lots. "At least, we need to know lot sizes to catch these things," he said.

"Our only interest is to be sure it's a buildable lot," Robinson said, adding people have had to sue to get their lot lines straightened out.

Zacher said it's likely that when there are problems it's because the property was described in a legal document written by an attorney. He suggested requiring a survey, but not having the environmental services office review a certificate of survey.

But Buitenwerf said he's seen preliminary surveys forget an aspect of the ordinance and affect the size of the legal lot. "The purpose is just to make sure it's a conforming lot," he said.

"Is the county liable then?" Zacher asked.


n No one objected to a new provision in the ordinance that prohibits selling, trading or offering to sell parcels within a subdivision before the plat has been recorded.

Written comments on the proposed ordinance may be submitted to the Environmental Services Office until 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 3, when commissioners will conduct a public hearing on proposed changes to the Shoreland Management Ordinance.

Buitenwerf emphasized no proposed changes to either the subdivision ordinance or the shoreland management ordinance will affect how resorts might convert to planned unit developments.

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