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September 21, 2021

7/30/2021 11:17:00 AM
Code no longer calls for one-acre 'buildable'

A decades-old policy of requiring at least an acre “buildable’ for a new lot has been reduced by half— and a vote downsizing two sites for septic systems to 4,000 square feet each from 5,000, saw action last week at the County Board.

A couple of opposing county commissioners expressed concern saying the revisions were knee-jerk reactions and not part of a well thought out approach to county development.  Ben Montzka and Mike Robinson questioned what basis or reasoning exists for revising local development guidelines.  

On the septic systems size reduction to 8,000 square feet for two, Commissioner  Montzka said he hadn’t seen supporting scientific basis.  

Environmental Services Director Kurt Schneider said the state does not mandate the square footage and this is simply a “policy change” the county is fully authorized to implement.  The state only requires there be two septic system sites identifed.

The dissenting commissioners also had concern about lumping holding tanks in with the plat revisions.  Commissioner Robinson asked why holding tank use descriptions were even in this action requested.

Commissioner Montzka said holding tank proliferation could result in lake degradation and encourage denser lakeshore developments.  He said this should have been part of a Comprehensive Land Use Plan review and is “short sighted.”

Holding tanks are called out now in shoreland code for seasonal dwellings used six months or less, for homes less than 1,000 square feet, and for accessory building “washrooms” on lots of record.  

Schneider explained the wording is just to identify “the option of a lesser system” but isn’t much different from existing conditions.

Commissioner Marlys Dunne commented,  if there are “regrets” later the county can always address those.  Platting revisions will help farmers, she said, who need development restrictions reduced so they can profit from developing land.

Commissioner Chris DuBose, planning commission liaison, noted the old one acre rule had no tangible effect on “buildable” or not.  Dwellings were not required to be sited on the exact acre of buildable terrain, it just had to exist somewhere on the lot.  He noted the lot size (depending on zoning) is not being impacted by this.  Lots are still five acres minimum in ag zone subdivisions, two acres in Rural Residential II, one acre in RR I and RVC, and for Urban Residential or UR the minimum lot  size is 20,000 square feet.

The developers are now expected to incorporate standards and practices within the construction. These will be safeguards that the old one acre buildable rule did not impact, DuBose added.

As Schneider phrased it, the new one-half acre standard leaves the county not so dependent on naturally occurring lot conditions.

The Board was given a summary of building activity in the areas where the county provides plat and zoning services.  There were 68 new homesites pemitted.

Lent Township, Wyoming, North Branch and Taylors Falls have their own building authorities and permit counts are beyond this.

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