The regular, monthly meeting of the Ward County Planning and Zoning Commission Thursday night was a straightforward one, with 10 new plats approved and two public hearings for special variances held.
The approved plats were located in Surrey, Willis, Kirkelie, New Prairie, Des Lacs and Sundre Townships. A series of five plat applications for Baden Township from the same petitioner were tabled at the meeting pending further review.
The approval for the Des Lacs Township plats was made contingent upon the petitioner performing improvements to the access road there. The township had previously recommended that one of the outlots in the plat application be denied due to "safety concerns over the road slopes and width as it was built as a private drive and with private funds and is not a township maintained road," but removed that recommendation in favor of recommending approval as long as the applicant would perform the necessary changes.
The petitioner was at the meeting but did not speak as it was not a public hearing.
As always, discussion on the matter and on both of the following public hearings for the two variance applications lead to the discussion of hypothetical events that may cause problems.
The first of the two public hearings was to allow the applicant to build his garage 12 feet from the road in front of his house instead of the 18 feet normally required to allow room for maintenance of the road. The case was a special one because the two lots in question are at the end of a dead-end road in Rice Lake. In fact, both the petitioner and Ward County engineer Dana Larsen agreed that it wasn't really a road.
Larsen called it an "access."
The entirety of Rice Lake zoning was described as a mess that would be extremely difficult and expensive to re-plat, costing in Larsen's estimates tens of thousands of dollars. The "access" leading to the applicant's lots has been there for at least 20 years but has not been maintained, is not really a road but more of a "trail," and also goes over what is now county land following some sort of settlement that came about following a tax dispute in the area.
Since it's not a road and doesn't show up in platting maps the issue was a strange one.
Don Siebert, vice chairman of the commission, said the lots are 200 feet deep, leaving more than enough room for the petitioner to put his structure up 18 feet from the road.
The petitioner said that while his lot is 200 feet deep, half of it is in the lake and the remaining lot slopes downward fairly steeply. For him to place the structure that far back he would have to bring in a lot of fill dirt to bring the rear of the structure up.
In the end the application was approved but with commissioners Siebert and John Fjeldahl voting no.
The next variance application hearing resulted in the application being denied unanimously.
It seemed as though the commissioners were at first sympathetic to the petitioner's want to build her home 1 1/2 feet lower than the County Floodplain Management Elevation in order to meet the aesthetics of the surrounding Robinwood Estates community in Harrison Township and to be spared the heavy cost of elevating her lot to comply. But that changed when a woman who lives up the street from the lot in question came to say that she was "$30,000 out" after elevating her own lot with fill dirt to comply with the CFME requirements and that the man who owns two lots between she and the petitioner had spent $50,000 raising his lots.
She felt that it was unfair for she and other community members to have to spend so much money if the same standards didn't apply to everyone. The commissioners affirmed the position and denied the application.