County OKs fines for failing to seek permits before building; Grace period lasts until Jan. 1 to seek compliance at normal price

Published 10:26 am Thursday, September 8, 2016

Mower County leaders are looking at ways to get a simple message out to residents: Before you build or make changes to your property, be sure you have the proper zoning permits.

The county board unanimously approved fines for failing to obtain zoning after the Mower County Planning Commission has seen a growing number of land use permits coming forward after or while a building is being constructed.

“I think we do have a major problem with this throughout the county,” Commissioner Tim Gabrielson said. “And we should have some form or posting to give people warning.”

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The penalties approved Tuesday will cost three times the typical permitting price. The most common is a simple zoning permit for $30 — a price Environmental Services Director Angie Knish said is reasonable — that must be obtained before building a house, decks, pole shed or grain bin.

“Permits are required for any kind of construction,” Knish said. “Shore land regulations are even more restrictive, feedlots take more time to get a permit for that.”

If people now forget or neglect to get the payment, they’ll be charged three times that zoning price — or a $90 penalty for the zoning permits.

A conditional use permit and a variance both cost $500.

Some residents have questioned how they are to know if they need zoning and who should they check with.

Gabrielson used an example of a man who planted several trees without knowing he needed to look into some zoning. But the county’s zoning is far from new since it’s had zoning since the 1958 and each county has some form of zoning in Minnesota.

“It’s always best to check before you do anything because it’s a lot cheaper than having to tear it down,” Commissioner Jerry Reinartz said.

But the commissioners view the fees as a way to encourage and promote public education about the zoning and permitting. Board Chair Polly Glynn said the increase in people missing the zoning shows that people don’t know about the needs.

“With an increase, to me, it seems that people are not aware,” Glynn said.

Commissioners asked for staff to speak at an upcoming township meeting to remind people of the zoning needs and ramifications of the penalties. Gabrielson also suggested posting signs about zoning around the county.

The new penalties come with a grace period to get unzoned properties or buildings into compliance before the penalties are enacted. These would be assessed at the regular fee.

Zoning permits gauge if the use is allowed in the districts and assures it meets the various permitting requirements for the district, while building permits gauge that more specific building specifications are being done correctly. Mower County does not have staff for building permits.

For more information or to seek a permit, stop at Mower County Public Works Office at 1105 8th Ave. NE or call 507-437-7718.

When is a zoning permit required?

Ordinance Excerpt: No person in the county shall erect, alter, or move any building or any part thereof without first securing a zoning permit therefore. In all cases where an improvement will serve to change the exterior shape of the structure including enclosed porches, regardless of the cost of the improvement, a zoning permit must be secured. No permit shall be required for minor repairs, such as redecorating either the inside or the outside, residing, or reshingling.

Does a deck require a zoning permit?

Yes. Mower County’s zoning ordinance was amended in 2013 to require a permit for decks in order to be compliant with FEMA floodplain standards and Minnesota Shoreland rules.

What are some other project examples that require a zoning permit?

•When you construct something or move a structure on your property or onto your property anywhere within Mower County.

•When you move dirt, remove vegetation or trees, or store anything adjacent to protected waters or within floodplain areas; anywhere within Mower County.

•When you operate a business – check to make sure you are properly zoned or have the proper permits if your business will be located anywhere within Mower County.

•When you have animals at your site that will create a feedlot, as defined by the State of Minnesota.

•If you install, replace or make major improvements to a septic system.

•When you erect a sign; a permit may be required. Setbacks always apply.

•Division or subdivision of property may require a permit; please check. There are minimum lot size, depth and width requirements for parcels for each district. Some parcel division may require platting. There may also be other requirements; be sure to check.

—Source: Environmental Services Supervisor Angela Knish, from the spring City of Austin-Mower County-Vision 2020-Austin Public Schools publication.