County Board OKs interim use concept

By Emily Bialkowski

Caledonia Argus


The Houston County Board gave the OK to proceed with changing the zoning ordinance to include interim uses, as recommended by the Planning Commission, during its Sept. 16 regular board meeting.

The issue was first presented by the Frydenlund family, of Black Hammer Township. They need an interim use permit for the recreational cabins on their family land.

The family trust has a couple hundred acres and several cabins, Zoning Administrator Bob Scanlan explained.

“They brought this to the Planning Commission as an amendment to the existing ordinance to use as an avenue to bring their property into compliance,” he said.

An interim use differs from Houston County’s typical “conditional use” in that the permit expires at some point, usually with the sale of the property. Conditional uses stay with the land.

“I think it allows a little flexibility in some situations,” Commisisoner Steve Schuldt said.

Scanlan said the Planning Commission intends to consider additional amendments because they have been presented other situations that don’t fit into a category. He said they hope to form a study committee to review the matter.

“Several other counties have several interim use permit options, like for a home businesses or industry in ag district,” Scanlan said.

The Frydenlunds will still need to go through a permitting process and have a public hearing for their non-commercial family cabins. The board’s action simply allows for interim use permits to be granted.

In other zoning news, the board approved expediting the conditional use process for Hidden Bluffs Campground due to flood damage sustained this June. A dike was breeched by floodwaters, and owners of the campground are concerned it will become a hazard next spring if it is not repaired this fall. They also want to move rock rubble deposited by the storm to fill in areas washed out during the flood.

The request received approval contingent on a DNR and conservation office inspection.


Chairman’s vote

Historically speaking, the Houston County Board chair only votes when a tie needs to be broken.

After communicating with several other county boards, Commissioner Teresa Walter suggested the policy be changed.

“On most boards, everybody has the right to vote,” Walter said.

The recommendation was greeted warmly by other commissioners, especially because the chairman has a district (or geogrpahic region) to represent.

“It makes sense,” Schuldt said.

The item gained approval without the chairman’s input because he was absent from the meeting.


Waste warning

It’s not the most compelling of topics at first glance – waste, garbage, refuse – but Environmental Services Director Rick Frank is keeping on top of the matter to prevent any budgetary surprises. He supplied the board with some history on waste collection and warned of a possible expense.

Houston County’s agreement for refuse elimination dates back 1990 with La Crosee County and includes a $200,000 obligation to meet federal guidelines for pollution control. The payment was broken down to $20,000 per year with a $5 per ton rebate on certain refuse. When Houston County produces a lot of garbage, it gets more of a rebate. That rebate is almost used up and means the $20,000 obligation might need to be budgeted for in 2014.

“Quantities are hard to predict,” Frank admitted, adding that if a lot of garbage is produced, then the cost might drop. “We’ll keep monitoring it throughout the year, but I wanted you to be aware we might need to budget for that,” he said.

Overall, the partnership with La Crosse County has been fruitful. “They are recognized nationally for how they are handling waste, and we are part of that,” Frank said.


Inter-county contract

From time to time, Houston County calls on the expertise of neighboring counties for help. One example might be when the sheriff’s department needs an outside investigator to review an internal affair.

This sharing of professional services comes with its own set of liabilities, so Human Resources Director Tess Arrick-Kruger drafted a professional services agreement with Wabasha County, with whom the Houston County is currently partnering with, to release Wabasha of any liability associated with a third party legal dispute.

Arrick-Kruger further explained:

“For example, you have County A performing a search for personnel, and County B is sitting on the search committee due to some expertise they have. Then, low and behold, someone is suing County A for negligent hiring. The contract releases County B from the decision.”

County Board members characterized the contract as a good template for sharing services.

“It’s good for counties to work together,” Walter said.

Schuldt added, “I read it, and there’s nothing alarming about it.”

The contract was approved.