Residents will have more choices as they look at country homes should Crow Wing County change its zoning regulations.
Tuesday commissioners looked at reducing the minimum lot size in agricultural zoning from 15 acres down to 10 acres. In the end, commissioners postponed a decision and requested more information. They want to consider language for a 5-acre lot size focusing on a growing request for country homes rather than working ag land. They referred the matter back to the committee level. And the county board set a summer joint meeting with the Planning Commission to discuss land classifications.
Crow Wing County commissioners will meet in a joint session with the Planning Commission at 5 p.m. Aug. 11.
Commissioners noted much of the land zoned agricultural in the county had little to do with growing crops or raising farm animals. One resident who attended the meeting said his 40-acre land tract was mostly wooded. The county does not define agricultural zoning as farming. Commissioners said the zoning largely became a catchall. Residents noted dividing their 40 acres, often a typical land size, into equal parcels of 15 acres each is mathematically impossible while a 10-acre parcel allows them to equally divide the land if they wish.
About 20 people attended the meeting during the public hearing to potentially amend the zoning ordinance. Daggett Brook Township supervisors sent a letter to the board citing their developing comprehensive plan. They requested the ag lot size be increased to 20 acres. James and Jennifer Crust, Daggett Brook residents, sent in results of a community survey with residents split between requests for 20, 10 and 5 acres and a category marked "other." The Crusts were in favor of the 10-acre agricultural zoning.
Bonnie Finnerty, county planner, said an additional concern in simply reducing the size from 15 acres to 10 acres came in allowing all the same uses currently available in ag zoning, including race tracks. She said some uses that made sense for the larger land tracts may not work at 10 acres. Commissioners asked for a list and potential restrictions for the smaller land size and language for even smaller land classifications.
Commissioner Dewey Tautges said he was in favor of moving agricultural zoning to 10 acres and had no problem changing standards regarding what could be done on the property. Tautges noted a sale of 80 acres for $212,000 and another that was about $2,000 an acre. He said farmers cannot afford those prices to farm land.
Commissioner Ed Larsen said the county's comprehensive plan was started with the idea that one size does not fit all townships. He pointed to other counties with land classifications for forest or two to three land tract sizes for residential development.
Townships willing to handle zoning can be more restrictive than the county.
Dave Schubert, Daggett Brook Township supervisor, said the township considered splitting a 40-acre parcel into two 5-acre lots for smaller housing parcels and leaving 30 acres for agriculture. Tautges said he would love to see an option for a 5-acre country estate.
Commissioner Gary Walters spoke of the urgency to move forward.
Tautges said he wanted to talk about land classification at a previous joint meeting with the Planning Commission when officials met to talk about the comprehensive plan. It was a missed opportunity, he said, and residents who want to do things with their land are still in limbo.
In related action, the board struck down language that allowed land to be split using a conditional use permit in land zoned for agricultural. The CUP language was used to create land tracts of a lesser size in agricultural zoning.
The county attorney's office reported the CUP use was not legal according to state law. Larsen said the Planning Commission found applicants using the CUP to split land as a way around the zoning ordinance. Applicants may request a variance or go through the county's zoning process. A moratorium in place while the issue was resolved was then lifted. The motion is directed at future applications and not at existing agricultural land that used the CUP process previously.
RENEE RICHARDSON can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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