Published June 20, 2009, 01:01 PM

Lake encroachment requests increase; answer is still no

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.

By: Sarah Smith, Park Rapids Enterprise

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.

In other business, the board:

-Granted a request by a Kabekona Lake couple to convert their garage to a guest cabin. Richard and Vicci Geckler made an appearance in March with the same request, and asked that it be tabled when they learned their property was large enough to subdivide. They decided it was a good option to keep, but their immediate plans are extra space needs for family, so they returned with the same request.

It was granted with the proviso that if they decide to subdivide, the garage will be converted back to avoid density problems on the lot.

-Granted a request by Kenneth and Noreen Tolonen to expand their bathroom eight feet to accommodate a bathtub and closet at their Hennepin Lake home.

Noreen Tolonen told the board she had to wind her way down a narrow spiral staircase to use the tub. At her age, she said, she’d like a tub on the main floor.

“You’re probably talking to more replaced joints on this board…” Cole said to peals of laughter. “I sympathize with you.”

-Granted a request by Paul and Patricia Dove to convert a historic wood barn into a guest cottage at their Island Lake home.

-Allowed a First Crow Wing mobile home owner to upgrade his trailer over the objections of neighbors, who said it would decrease property values.

In doing so, Knight pressured Owen Thomas to buy a new mobile home, one that was environmentally better than the 40-year-old model on the lot, and one that would appease the neighbors.

“From what I see, any part of this is a big improvement,” Cole said, displaying a photo of the dilapidated trailer on the lot.

The board had no choice but to allow Thomas continued use of holding tanks for his waste.

“Its impossible to put in a septic system,” Buitenwerf said. “There’s no way to place a drain field on the property.”

-Removed the seasonal designation on Reynold and Karen Brix’s lot on Big Stony Lake, over the objections of a neighbor who urged the board not to “waive the ordinance because somebody finds them inconvenient.”

The Brixes want to homestead the lot and park their recreational vehicle on it any time during the year without a seasonal restriction.

The board said it couldn’t grant homestead status; that’s the assessor’s role. Knight worried that the couple lives half the year in California and half here, and wondered whether it would be appropriate to give the green light to the mobile couple.

But the Brixes said they vote here, would like to pay taxes here and get their mail here.

“You’ve gotta have a homestead somewhere,” Reynold said. “Federal law says you can’t live out of a post office box.”

-Granted one after-the-fact request that was discovered when a contractor came in for a deck permit, only to discover that surveyors had incorrectly measured the home placement and entered it on the site plan of Edward Stack’s East Crooked Lake residence, missing by six feet.

The home sits on a bluff.

“I could easily see where someone could make a mistake measuring it,” Cole said. The board granted the variance, and a separate one to install a lakeward deck addition.

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