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Townships upset over 1-acre lot sizes near lakes

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Township officials' recommendations are going to be given more weight in future planning and zoning decisions, according to a resolution passed Tuesday at the Becker County Board of Commissioners meeting.

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Attorney Jay Carlson, representing a group of supervisors from Audubon and Lake Eunice Townships, made a presentation to the board requesting that the commissioners give "clear direction" to the Planning Commission with regard to honoring townships' recommendations for zoning changes in shoreland management areas.

The request came as a result of a recent Planning Commission decision to approve a lot split within the shoreland management area of Big Cormorant Lake, for a lot less than 2.5 acres in size. According to Carlson, the decision was made despite both written and oral objections from Lake Eunice Township supervisors who were in attendance at the commission meeting.

The township supervisors' objections were centered around the fact that the land in question was within a designated shoreland management area.

Previously, the townships have relied upon the county to enforce a 2.5-acre minimum lot size to build a residence on property zoned as agricultural, Carlson noted, and have "aggressively" fought to prevent excessive density of development within shoreland management areas.

"Only minor concessions have been granted to developers for lots within the shoreland management area of less than two and one half acres," Carlson had noted in an earlier letter to the board.

"In the past, they (the commission) have honored township requests," noted Zoning Administrator Patty Johnson. "This was the first time a one-acre (lot) was approved when the townships wanted two and a half acres."

And the township supervisors want to prevent such a decision from happening again.

"They don't really feel there's a need for lots less than 2.5 acres in a shoreland management area," Carlson noted.

The reason why developers are no longer honoring the 2.5-acre minimum is that the county's zoning ordinance only requires a one-acre minimum, Johnson noted.

"The developers are now saying, 'We can have one acre, and we want one acre,'" she added.

"Wouldn't it be best to try to get the ordinance changed?" asked Commissioner Larry Knutson.

Carlson said the difficulty in taking that route is that each township would have slightly different requirements, and it would be difficult to reach a countywide consensus.

"I'd rather see something consistent (enforced) through the whole county," Commissioner Harry Salminen said.

"I agree that this should be countywide," Commissioner Barry Nelson said. However, until such a change can be made, Lake Eunice and Audubon townships would like to see their ordinances, requiring a 2.5-acre minimum lot size for residential use inside a shoreland management area, given more weight in future Planning Commission decisions, he added.

Johnson noted that she would like the Planning Commission to have a clear directive from the board on the matter, rather than being asked to make such decisions "arbitrarily."

The board honored Johnson's request in passing the motion. Johnson also said she would be bringing this issue to the ordinance advisory committee for further discussion.

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Vicki Gerdes
Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 14 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as obituaries. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.
(218) 844-1454
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