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Crow Wing County Board: Revisions to land-use ordinance approved

Paul Herkenhoff is the new manager of Crow Wing County Environmental Services. The former Crow Wing County survey/planning coordinator took over the position from long-time employee Chris Pence, who recently quit the county after nine years to work for the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources in Brainerd. Submitted photo.

Paul Herkenhoff's debut before the Crow Wing County Board as the new manager of Crow Wing County Environmental Services was without fanfare but not without ushering in changes.

Land Services Director Gary Griffin introduced at Tuesday's meeting the former county survey/planning coordinator, who took over from long-time county employee Chris Pence.

Herkenhoff's debut before the board was to address the county's land-use ordinance and proposed amendments to articles of the ordinance, such as the subdivision of land.

"The issue we were having is the administrative subdivision ordinance got changed back in 2006, so folks would get approval and then they could wait an indefinite time to record this," Herkenhoff explained to Commissioner Paul Koering after Herkenhoff was asked about it.

"In that case, we had land-use map changes where this was no longer fitting the required lot size requirements ... and title people having concerns about chain of title because there was an option where people could record these things with just a form and a certificate of surveyors."

The Environmental Services portion of Land Services includes issues such as addressing, land subdivisions, land use permits, septic systems, solid waste management, stormwater management, surveying, water planning, forest management and recreation.

"If it was 40 acres and they put this into a subdivision, they weren't required to have every deed maybe until they sold it?" Koering asked of Herkenhoff about the proposed subdivision-of-land amendment.

Before the county board voted whether to adopt that amendment and two others, Herkenhoff said of the subdivision-of-land amendment: "This completes the chain of title. It's an easier way for us to keep track and up to date on our parcel mapping."

A public hearing was held at the Oct. 19 meeting of the Planning Commission/Board of Adjustment to consider amendments to the land-use ordinance for Article 9 - Subdivision of Land, Article 36 - Screening and Fencing Standards and Article 46 - Definitions.

"The planning commission voted unanimously to approve Articles 9 and 46 changes, but they did want to leave the fence language in there with the addition of a definition," Herkenhoff told the board before the board voted to approve all three.

What was proposed was adding language to require administrative subdivisions to be recorded via a deed within 90 days of approval regarding subdivision of land and deleting language concerning the "finished side of the fence" regarding screening and fencing standards.

"This (fence) proposal stemmed from an issue we had where two landowners disagreed about the 'finished side of the fence,' so instead of adding a definition for 'finished side of the fence,' Chris said, 'You know what? Let's just delete this from the ordinance,'" Herkenhoff said.

"There is no permit requirement to put up a fence ... but we wouldn't be enforcing the aesthetic side of the fence; we don't enforce the colors, people can paint whatever they want, whatever type of wood they want ... but it would just get away from us trying to regulate that."

It was also suggested adding or modifying more than 20 definitions to comply with state and federal floodplain laws regarding definitions related to the county's land-use ordinance.

"Can you just explain that this isn't anything that the county has done?" Koering asked of Herkenhoff about floodplain laws. "This is somebody sitting in an office in Washington just looking at a computer and saying, 'Hmm—looks like a floodplain on here.' Am I correct?"

The board recently assigned to Herkenhoff the authority and duties of county surveyor, county zoning administrator and county planner under the supervision of Griffin.

Herkenhoff responded to Koering's assessment of floodplain designation by saying, "You are absolutely correct, and that's a good thing to bring up. ... FEMA started this initiative ... and remapped, re-delineated these floodplains around all the bodies of water in Crow Wing County."

The board also recently assigned to Environmental Services Supervisor Ryan Simonson the authority and duties of county land commissioner under the co-supervision of Griffin.

"What happened is this is all related to FEMA, the mortgage companies," Herkenhoff said about floodplain designation to Koering's questions.

"The mortgage companies review these new maps, and based on that data, they sent letters out to everyone they felt was affected by this, and they (residents) were given 45 days to either get flood insurance or prove that they were out of the floodplain."

Herkenhoff told Board Chairman Doug Houge that the number of affected acres or parcels related to floodplain designation was "substantial" in Crow Wing County.

"Anything new built in these areas will be required to be built at what's called a 'regulatory flood-protection elevation' just to ensure people are out of these flood zones and that there's not a need for flood insurance in the future," Herkenhoff said.

Koering made the motion to adopt all three land-use ordinance amendments relating to subdivision of land, screening and fencing standards, and definitions, which Commissioner Rosemary Franzen seconded, before the board unanimously adopted the three amendments.

Commissioner Paul Thiede was absent from Tuesday's county board meeting at the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse on Laurel Street.