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Board of Appeals OK's Connell variance

Neighbor opposes plans for shop with living quarters near back property line
Mavis Fodness

The Rock County Planning and Zoning Commission approved a variance Monday night for Chantel Connell to build additional living quarters on her property on North River Road.
Luverne Township ordinance requires that new construction be set back 30 feet from backyard property lines, and Connell requested a variance to put the structure as near as 10 feet from the border.
On July 25 the Rock County Board of Appeals conducted a public hearing which Connell’s neighbor, Frances Ladd, attended to oppose construction that close to his rear property.
“I think that is way too big of a structure for that area and it’s really restrictive to the eastern fence line — I can’t go along with it,” he said.
Connell proposes to construct a 50-by-109-foot building on her property on North River Road. The height of the structure is 27 feet at the peak.
The permanent personal storage building/shop/living quarters would connect with an existing garage, which would convert into a shop area.
The north end of the new structure would be a garage and the south end would be a two-bedroom living quarters.
Once the structure is finished, Connell said she will move into the living quarters, and her son Jesse and his family will move into her existing home.
Connell and her late husband, Terry, built the house on the eastern portion of their almost 11-acre parcel 20 years ago.
Rock County Land Management Director Eric Hartman said the parcel is zoned “general agricultural,” and Connell’s proposed building is considered a non-ag structure subject to ordinance setbacks of 30 feet from a backyard and 15 feet from a side.
The ordinance doesn’t place any restrictions on height.
Connell’s existing home is 60 feet west of Ladd’s property, which is surrounded by numerous 30- to 50-foot-tall trees. A windbreak runs the length of the fence line on the Connell side.
Ladd invited the Board of Appeals to view Connell’s building location and its potential to interfere with Ladd’s west view.
“We could lose a lot of good sunsets,” he said.
The board visited the building site after the hearing closed, agreeing to postpone any decisions for one week and reconvene Monday night.
Hartman and the board measured Connell’s property and the proposed building location, discussed where the septic system would be located and viewed the rest of Connell’s property for a potential better location.
Building on Connell’s property is limited to about 1.5 acres of suitable land, which is on top of a hill overlooking the Rock River.
The rest of the property slopes to the west into a flood plain, based on maps drawn by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources almost 40 years ago.
Hartman recommended not building in the flood plain.
“I know it is not totally impossible to build down there, but it poses some difficulties and challenges,” he said. “It would take a considerable amount of fill and we can’t place a new septic system down in a flood plain.”
Locating the new structure behind the existing Connell home provides adequate setback from a channel on the south side of the property that drains away surface water.
Connell’s proposed building location is about nine feet lower than the Ladd home.
Ladd said a pond is located on the top of the slope on his property and is considered a wetland. He is concerned that property below the slope is also a wetland.
The Planning and Zoning Commission considered Ladd’s concerns at their Monday night meeting before unanimously granted the variance to Connell.

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