Shoreland changes OK’dPublished 11:37am Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Two important changes to the Shoreland Management Ordinance and Sanitation Code were passed by Otter Tail County Commissioners Tuesday — to impervious surface restrictions and to temporary dwellings rules. The changes are geared toward the continued efforts to protect lakes during lakeshore development.
One of the biggest changes in the ordinance limits building coverage on a lot to 20 percent, which will leave enough room for improvements, like sidewalks and driveways, so lot owners don’t exceed the 25 percent impervious surface limit.
This is one of the biggest change since 1992, when the limit changed from 30 percent to 25 percent. Land and Resource Director Bill Kalar said in an interview before the final vote that informing the public has helped limit violations, but the changes in the ordinance will require lake property owners to plan ahead.
“Each year we try to be a little more proactive,” he said. “It’s one of those things that we’re trying to educate the public on so they’ll understand and follow.”
Stopping violations and keeping lots under the 25 percent limit has been an important part of lake quality management. Impervious surfaces disturb the natural absorption of rain water, and the resulting runoff can damage lakes.
“Has it worked to improve water quality? I hope that’s the case. Is it a cure all? No, but it slows down negative impact,” he said. “We have seen improving water quality in a variety of places and people have reported noticeable differences.”
Trouble over temporary dwellings during construction have also given county officials headaches as they try to enforce the law. Kalar said residents often want to live in an existing structure while they build new dwellings, but that was previously not allowed.
With the changes, property owners will be able to apply for an interim use permit, similar to a conditional use permit, to live in an existing structure while another is being built. Residents will have to get recommendations from the planning commission and approval from the board. If they would like to convert a previous residence into a non-dwelling structure, conditions from the planning commission would also have to be met.
While approval is not guaranteed, Kalar said the process could help those who want to build with an existing dwelling on lakeshore property.
The problem has been more widespread in the past than some may believe, Kalar said.
“They’re all over the place. We get after several every year,” Kalar said. “We have people swear up and down that they will get rid of the structure and they never do.”
The number of people living in the additional structure is often unsustainable for the area. Problems that arise, such as septic system failure, can affect the lake and lakeshore.
With the new change, Kalar said he hopes enforcement will be a little easier.
“It’s a tough one to enforce because we’re limited to outside observance,” he said.
The Department of Natural Resources will have to approve the changes, but at the meeting Tuesday County Attorney David Hauser said he doesn’t expect a problem.
The changes will take affect upon publication, which will be by Aug. 1.