Area News | Home | Marketplace | Community

Return to Archived Stories

Paynesville Press - January 2, 2002

Ordinance agreement nears for county, township

By Michael Jacobson

The days of dual permitting are numbered in Paynesville Township.

Since April 2000 when Stearns County passed a county-wide zoning ordinance, residents have had to get site permits before building from both the township and Stearns County, but the two governmental entities are nearing agreement on having almost identical ordinances. This would enable each entity to enforce both ordinances at once.

This is the county's goal for all the townships in the county, said Don Adams, director of Stearns County Environmental Services.

The township and county have been in negotiations for a year to accomplish this agreement on their zoning ordinances. For the township to keep control of enforcing the ordinance, the township ordinance must be as strict or stricter than the county's ordinance. The new township ordinance will be the subject of a public hearing at the township hall on Monday, Jan. 28, at 7:30 p.m.

If the new ordinance passes and a memorandum of understanding is approved between the township and county, residents will be able to get approval for construction site permits from one source.

Previously site permits had to meet both township and county requirements, which led to some conflicts when trying to satisfy both ordinances. But soon, since the ordinances will be nearly identical, by meeting the requirements of one entity, it will automatically meet the requirements of the other.

Here's the expected breakdown. The county will still handle all septic system permits, so that will be the first step for new homes, additions that include a new bathroom or bedroom, and any shoreland permit. While older septic systems may need to be checked or improved before being certified, newer systems (less than five years old) should only need a paper check, said Jack Wimmer, land use supervisor at Stearns County Environmental Services, which handles permitting for the county. Zimmer discussed the zoning agreement with the township board at their meeting on Monday, Dec. 24.

If the structure or residence is within a shoreland area (within 1,000 feet of the high-water mark for a lake or within 300 feet of the mark for a stream) the county will handle the site permit. Stearns County has had zoning restrictions in shoreland areas since the early 1970s.

If not, if the structure is anywhere else in the township, the township will handle the permitting, except for feedlots, which also will be under the county's jurisdiction.

The county will handle all variances for septic systems, shoreland, and feedlots, while the township will handle all variances within its sphere of control. The two entities will be sending each other approved permits so both can keep records, but only one will handle issuance.

This means anyone with lake front or river property will only need to work with the county. People in the township's sphere will still need to get a septic system permit from the county, if needed, but after that they will only have to deal with the township.

While some townships have ceded more control to the county, Paynesville Township has pursued this agreement to keep some permitting control in the township. Under certain circumstances, the arrangement could save township residents trips to St. Cloud, allowing them to work with township officials only.

"Next to Wakefield Township (by Cold Spring) Paynesville is going to be the most involved in zoning (in the county)," said Wimmer.

The township's new ordinance would be stricter than the county's in some respects. The township will keep its new size requirements for accessory buildings, though it agreed on Monday to loosen its height restrictions. Due to a number of variance requests on side wall height, the township board agreed to keep a limit of 14 feet for tracts 9.5 acres or less, but will allow unlimited heights beyond that.

The township also would require two acres as a minimum lot size. (The county allows one-acre lots.) The township would require at least 800 sq. ft. of livable space, a minimum width of 24 feet, and a permanent foundation for residences.

The township also would continue to prohibit guest cottages and would have some extra requirements for storage sheds around Lake Koronis.

Contact the author at   •   Return to News Menu

Home | Marketplace | Community