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Enforce or not enforce

By Staff | Aug 21, 2016

To enforce, or not to enforce?

Faribault County’s zoning ordinance extends to the townships it covers, but that did not stop the County Board from entertaining a vibrant conversation about the extent of county influence at Tuesday’s meeting.

Reminding the board that certain townships’ zoning guidelines can be more restrictive than those of Faribault County, county attorney Troy Timmerman sought perspective Tuesday on whether his department should enforce township rules and to what degree.

And between Timmerman, the county commissioners and a full house of public guests from Verona Township, that query quickly evolved into a back-and-forth of lengthy proportions in the county courthouse.

“My question to you guys,”?Timmerman said, gesturing to both the board and the visitors from Verona, “is how much do you want the county to do these services for the townships?”

Those services, the commissioners went on to explain, would potentially make the county open for hire for townships seeking additional oversight of their own ordinances.

But, as Timmerman cautioned and commissioner Bill Groskreutz echoed, encouraging such a responsibility for the county could lead not only to an overworked county staff but an influx of countless other township requests.

“If we go this route, how much of a burden are we putting on our county attorney and his staff?” Groskreutz asked. “We already have sheriffs that are doing enforcement for these townships, and I’m a little concerned about projecting it too far.”

Expanding county services for one township might usher in request for assistance by every township in the area, he added, a comment that drew support from commissioner Tom Loveall.

“I?don’t know what the demand will be,”?Loveall said. “But to say it’s limited to Verona Township, I’m just cautious of this. Do we want to go into this line of business?”

Commissioners Greg Young and John?Roper had no problem suggesting just that.

“I?don’t think we’re ever going to represent all the townships in the county,”?Young said, “and they’re paying for representation anyway.”

And by opening the county’s ordinance oversight to townships willing to pay, they suggested the county would have full control over which responsibilities it does or does not have the time or resources to address.

“I don’t care what township it is,”?Roper said. “We already offer our services elsewhere, so I?don’t see any difference. And we can pick and choose what we want to do as we go.”

Selecting which townships to serve, Groskreutz responded, could muddy the waters even more, especially if every township in the county feels entitled to assistance.

Young saw things differently, offering that significant ordinance changes throughout county townships probably will not even surface until the board of commissioners is sporting some new faces.

“I don’t think you realize it takes years to get an ordinance together,”?he said.

And with that, Groskreutz and his fellow commissioners agreed to defer discussion on the ordinance issue until an official proposal is presented.

That, of course, did not happen until some spirited exchanges between the Verona Township citizens in attendance.

At one point, commissioner Tom Warmka summoned representation from the township’s board to speak. And the sentiment from Verona’s leadership a plan that would repeal the township’s zoning ordinance altogether and replace it with the county’s clashed with the opinion of the more than 10 Verona Township citizens who made up the meeting audience.

“We’ll go get 200 signatures for a petition,”?one said as the town board member shook his head. “Because 80 to 90 percent of the people in the township want to keep our ordinance with its restrictions.”

Encouraging Verona Township to sort through its own plans before returning with a proposal, the commissioners agreed to set up a meeting with the township board for future discussions.

“They already know what they’re going to do,” another citizen said of the town board. “They have an agenda.”

With parting remarks a “What happened to democracy?”?plea from remaining citizens of the township, the conversation came to a close, left to be resolved another day.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the County Board also:

Heard updates on area construction from county engineer Mark Daly.

Main Street work in Blue Earth is “still a couple weeks ahead of schedule”?and is on pace to be completed by the end of September, according to Daly.

Meanwhile, work on the North Main?Street storm sewer got underway on Tuesday, construction on County State Aid Highway 18 is slated to begin Aug. 22 and six-inch road striping across the county has been completed.

Granted a $10,000 donation to the Faribault County Historical Society (FCHS), which presented the board with its potential repair projects, including moisture problems in the fairgrounds’ General Store.

“We all appreciate your work,”?Warmka said, motioning to FCHS president Bill Paul and his accompanying team of volunteers. “Your work does not go unnoticed.”

Approved an Emergency Performance Grant of $20,389 received by county sheriff Mike Gormley and his staff.

The grant money, issued by the state and earned in part because of participation in large-scale training drills, will go toward wages and additional training.

Agreed to release a lien against a foreclosed Winnebago property by recommendation of Judd Schultz, from the Minnesota Valley Action Council.

Schultz approached the Winnebago City Council with the same request, which would allow the foreclosed homeowner to relinquish the property and Wells Fargo Home Mortgage to distribute $12,000 in revolving loan funds between the city, the county and MVAC.

Approved an access agreement with Cargill, which intends to demolish its old buildings in Elmore.

Heard updates from Blue Earth Area Chamber director Cindy Lyon on the chamber’s expenses and plans for a new welcome center.

Lyon said welcome center progress was aided by a $100,000 donation and, in total, amounts to an approximately $550,000 project.

Held a public hearing for a proposed Emerald Township feedlot that will consist of 2,400 swine in a total confinement barn.

The board encouraged Shawn Olson, who requested to build the feedlot, to “keep up the good work.”