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In Hubbard County, lake encroachment requests increase; but the answer is still no

PARK RAPIDS - Hubbard County lakeshore property owners who make improvements without permits risk their property's future growth.

That seemed to be the message the Hubbard County Board of Adjustment was sending out Tuesday.

And one more thing - don't even think about building closer to the lake in the setback zone.

"We're seeing more and more people wanting to encroach on the lake," said board member Jerry Cole after a request to put a structure within the 100-foot zone was denied.

"We're also seeing more after-the-fact requests," noted Environmental Services Director Eric Buitenwerf in reference to the property owners who get caught after they've made improvements, then come to the board seeking a variance to put the seal of approval on their work.

The powerful board, which oversees variances if property owners cannot meet conditions spelled out under shoreland management ordinances, denied two such requests and ordered the homeowners to move the offending improvements.

That was the case of James Strobel, whose elderly parents erected a shed 14 feet into the 100-foot setback zone on Eighth Crow Wing Lake. The family was seeking an after-the-fact variance.

The board was not swayed when Strobel's mother nearly broke down, saying the placement was her fault.

"There are several places that shed could go to keep it back 100 feet," Cole said.

The Strobels said they could not find a contractor willing to remove the shed to another location because it would inevitably be damaged in the move.

"It's only 14 feet," they implored.

The board was unmoved. "We must try to keep to our regulations as close as possible," said board chair Charles Knight.

"I just can't believe it's that big a deal to move that back," said board member Earl Benson. "It'd take half a day."

It was a similar story when Trudy Kenney asked for an after-the-fact variance on an un-permitted patio and retaining wall that encroached into the setback on her family's Duck Lake home.

"We had bids from four contractors," she said. "None of them mentioned we needed a permit."

Her request for a three-season porch, also within the setback area, was denied as well. She was instructed to remove the portion of the patio that is illegal, but was allowed to keep the retaining wall because Buitenwerf said it was necessary to the home's support.