WALKER -- The Cass County Board voted Tuesday to accept a subcommittee recommendation for language concerning outlots in the county subdivision ordinance over objections from Commissioner John Stranne.
"We shouldn't change the rules 20 years later," Stranne said.
At issue is whether outlots in plats filed from 1971 through 2002 can be developed if a new plat is approved for those lots after the county planning commission holds a public hearing.
The language approved Tuesday would permit outlot development in 1971 to 2002 plats if re-platted in the future.
Attorney Jim Ballenthin argued that the county policy against permitting outlots to be developed has been in place more than 20 years and should continue to prevent development. He represents clients who own lots in Hattie Landing plat on Lake Hattie, which was platted in 1979.
Attorney Wilbert Hendricks, representing the owner of an outlot in that plat, contended the platting process is an appropriate way to determine whether property should be subdivided now.
As undeveloped property has become scarcer in Cass County, Environmental Services Director Paul Fairbanks said the question his department faces in dealing with old outlots in plats is whether the intent was to preserve open space or to provide opportunity for future development.
In many cases, he said, the land may be marshy and not suitable for development. In other cases, outlots may contain high ground, which now looks suitable for development, he said.
The proposed, amended ordinance would require developers to state in their plat application their intent for outlots in any new plats filed after this date. The question remains concerning the original developer's intent for older plats, he said.
Fairbanks told the board he believes putting old outlots through the platting process at this time will clarify whether that property qualifies for development today or not. Neighbors would be notified and public hearings held before a new outlot plat could be approved.
Lots in the new plat for a former outlot would have to meet all criteria for setbacks, allow sufficient usable area for two septic systems and would have to conform to other current standards for any buildable lot.
Outlots cannot be subdivided or created through ESD approval without going to the planning commission as a minor plat of four or less lots under the proposed ordinance changes.
Unrelated changes proposed in the amended ordinance will require anyone owning undersized lots adjacent to a compliant lot to sell the two parcels together, so a non-conforming lot is not sold separately.
Because minimum standards for general development lots were increased when the ordinance was amended in August, this will not apply to lots on general development lakes, which were conforming before the August changes.
Anyone wanting copies of the proposed changes or entire ordinance can contact Environmental Services Department at (218) 547-7241 or toll free outside the Walker-Hackensack area at 800-547-3301.
A second reading of the proposed changes and anticipated adoption of a final draft are scheduled for the Dec. 5 board meeting at 3:30 p.m. at the courthouse in Walker. The meeting is open to the public.
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