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County will tackle nonconformity issue (01/20/2013)
By Sarah Squires

The Winona County Planning Commission sorted through dozens of recommended zoning ordinance changes Thursday night, identifying small corrections and typographical errors that could be changed quickly, and other, more significant changes that will take more time to study.

The nonconformity section of the ordinance was one commissioners agreed will take more time to sort out. That portion of the ordinance describes the way that properties that once conformed to the rules, but are in violation of the new ordinance, are treated. County staff members identified the section as confusing and in need of clarification. Additionally, new Winona County Board member Steve Jacob, who also serves on the Winona County Planning Commission, campaigned on the promise that the nonconformity section of the ordinance would be amended to ensure that properties that were considered in compliance with the old zoning ordinance would not be labeled nonconforming under the new one.

Commissioners also agreed that several suggested changes to the Rural Heritage District zone may also take more time to study, and may affect changes to the nonconformity section. Staff identified several inconsistencies with the Rural Heritage District regulations, including language regarding permitted principal uses and accessory uses, which will be discussed when the commission examines the nonconformity section in the coming months.

Other changes

The ordinance currently requires a conditional use permit (CUP) be secured before exploratory borings be done by landowners who seek to mine their property. County Zoning Administrator Eric Johnson said industry officials have claimed the requirement is "out-of-touch" and burdensome. "[There are] probably hundreds of examples of firms that have been out there doing borings," he said. State statute doesn't require a CUP for exploratory borings that look for sand or rock, he said, and the entire section may need to be rewritten. In cases where landowners would like to conduct borings to look for other mineral resources deep below the surface, he said, a CUP might be a good requirement.

The section of the ordinance that requires development certificates (DC), a permit similar to a building permit, will also be reviewed. Currently the ordinance requires such a permit for any structure that is over $2,000 in value or over 200 square feet. However, the language is not clear about whether a structure that costs more than $2,000 but is under 200 square feet, or vice versa, would require a permit.

Many other small changes were reviewed by commissioners and determined to be so minor that they won't require much future deliberation by the commission. In the coming months, the group is expected to review the suggested minor changes and discuss the more significant ones. Once the work is complete, public hearings will be held and the recommended changes will be sent to the Winona County Board for a final vote.  


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