Murray County Board approves zoning permits

SLAYTON — The Murray County Board approved three conditional use zoning permits as part of Tuesday’s meeting, with two of them coming down to divided votes.

Commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of allowing landowner Phil Gervais of Mason Township north of Slayton to remove trees that were planted above an unknown tile line. They voted by a 4-1 margin to approve the storage of salvage vehicles by Mark Vogel on land about one mile south of Lake Wilson.

The issue on Gervais’ property involved a conservation-related tree planting completed about 12 years ago as one of the conditions for allowing the construction of a hog finishing barn.

As the tree roots grew, they damaged the tile line to the point of causing drainage issues this spring after heavy winter snow followed by a late melting process. Until then, neither Gervais nor the county zoning office knew of the tile line, which does not appear on county ditch maps.

Gervais requested an amendment to his conditional permit to allow the removal of trees in order to repair and keep the tile line.

Murray County Planning and Zoning Administrator Jean Christoffels said the county zoning board agreed to allow tree removal to the extent needed to replace pre-existing tile.

“We discussed at length the value of tree plantings for both the livestock facility and neighbors,” Christoffels said. “It’s standard to require them in permits for new facilities. In this case, the decision about removing some of them came down to how they interfered with necessary drainage.”

She said input from Gervais’ nearest neighbor was taken into account in the decision to remove only as many trees as necessary. The neighbor asked that trees on the south side of the hog barn be kept. Additional trees on part of the east side were also left in place because of their ability to provide a barrier against prevailing winds.

A motion and second to approve the zoning board’s recommendation was followed by a request form Commissioner Lori Gunnink for a role call vote. She and Commissioner Dennis Welgraven voted against the conditional use, while Commissioners James Jens, Dave Thiner and Jim Kluis voted in favor.

With the vehicle storage permit, Christoffels presented a set of 18 conditions approved by the zoning board. The first two, along with condition 18, are the only ones that will apply as long as the site is used just for storage with processing for a recycling buyer at its current location in Lake Wilson. The other 15 would come into play if the processing is at some point moved out to the storage site.

In discussion, commissioners weighed the idea of whether some of the other 15 conditions should be used in either case.

“At this point vehicles that haven’t been processed can be scattered over a big area,” Thiner said. “It would be better if they’re all stored in a smaller space.”

Thiner cast the only vote against the permit as it was proposed. Gunnink expressed support for the conditional use terms based on the zoning review and Vogel’s past usage of the same property.

Christoffels noted that Vogel and zoning staff have worked since 2013 to insure that his non-conforming vehicle storage was compatible with county expectations for land use. His plans to place a house on the property made it necessary to take official action with specific conditional use terms.

“It only leads to a permit to do what’s already being done,” Gunnink said. “The vehicles have been getting recycled as soon as there’s enough of them to send out. He has a house ready to be moved, so he should be allowed to move it.”

The third conditional use permit, which allows Marlyn Bootsma to operate a utility vehicle sales business near Lake Wilson, was approved unanimously. Bootsma, who attended Tuesday’s meeting, said he plans to store only a small number of vehicles at the permitted site for a limited time and to send them to several different outlets to be sold to retail customers.

In other action, the board accepted a donation of $3,620 from the Fulda Community Growth Fund to put toward a beach front upgrade at Seven Mile Lake County Park near the city limits.

The park area will also be getting a road overlay through a price quote approved by the board. It was finalized Tuesday along with similar projects at the Murray County Fairgrounds in Slayton and at Lake Sarah County Park near Garvin.

Commissioners also granted two-day licenses to the Lake Wilson American Legion for two different off-site events this summer. They will take place at farms in Chanarambie Township and Moulton Township, both in the Lake Wilson area.

Murray County Auditor Heidi Winter explained that the Legion’s 3.2 permit handled by the state only applies to service in its building.

She advised commissioners to approve both permits for two days, with the requirement of a 1 a.m. cutoff time early in the morning on the second day. The permits were approved by the board as recommended.