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Paynesville Press - June 9, 2004

Kandiyohi County changes zoning on agricultural land

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners recently made changes to the county's zoning ordinance to allow more residential development on agricultural land.

The new ordinance, which was approved at a county board meeting on Tuesday, May 18, made changes to Kandiyohi County's two agricultural zonings. The new ordinance allows property owners with land zoned A-2 - which is the zoning used in most of northern Kandiyohi County, including Roseville and Irving townships - to build one residential unit for every 10 acres instead of two homes per 40 acres. These residences cannot be clustered, however, and require 10-acre parcels.

The new zoning ordinance also allows the development of conservation subdivisions, consisting of up to 10 homes on 10 acres of a 40-acre parcel while maintaining the agricultural designation of the undeveloped land. Under the old zoning ordinance, the entire 40-acre parcel needed to be zoned residential before any part of the parcel was developed.

To qualify for a conservation subdivision, residences need to be clustered on a 10-acre parcel, all county and state setbacks need to be met (septic, feedlot, etc.), and developers need to meet the criteria for preserving wildlife by establishing either wetlands, grasslands, or forested areas on the property, according to zoning commissioner Gary Geer. Conservation subdivisions will be considered on a case-by-case basis, he added.

Another change to the ordinance will primarily affect property owners in the southern part of the county, where most ag property is zoned A-1, or one residential unit per 40 acres. These property owners can now transfer building rights from one 40-acre parcel to another. For instance, a property owner with 80 acres of farmland could build two homes on one 40-acre parcel and leave the second for farming.

The Kandioyhi County Zoning Commission proposed changes to the zoning ordinance after noting many requests for variances for second and third residences on ag properties. Also, the county was seeing an increase in inquiries about sub-dividing ag property and wanted to preserve farming and the environment while allowing development, said Geer.

An earlier proposal for zoning changes would have established just one ag zone instead of two. Within that one zone, property owners would have been allowed to transfer building rights from one 40 acre parcel to another, but the proposed ordinance was confusing and didn't fully address small ag properties, said Geer.

Also, the proposed ordinance would have allowed the development of conservation subdivisions with up to 40 homes clustered on 20 acres of a 40-acre parcel. Some county commissioners thought this was too much development, so the ordinance was changed, Geer added.

According to Dennis Peterson, who represents Roseville and Irving townships on the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners, allowing more homes on ag property could be helpful for extended families who want to farm together. He thinks establishing conservation subdivisions could be especially beneficial to the townships he represents.

Already, Peterson has been approached by a resident interested in building a conservation subdivision in Irving Township, and he thinks there will be a lot more inquiries in the near future. With improvements being made to Highway 23 from Willmar to St. Cloud, Peterson noted that northern Kandiyohi County is growing and will probably continue to grow as people begin to realize the easy commute from Irving and Roseville Townships to Willmar or St. Cloud. Peterson believes allowing development while protecting ag property will be even more important in the next few years.

Geer, however, doesn't think a lot of development will occur right away. While he also has had some inquiries about conservation subdivisions in northern Kandiyohi County, a lot of ag property in Roseville and Irving townships either is farmed or in CRP currently, and Geer doesn't believe this will change in the near future.

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