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Hunting club seeks hearing on Swan Lake development

By WILLMAR -- The four men who make up the Swan Lake Hunting Club have asked the District Court to compel the Kandiyohi County Board of Adjustment to hold a hearing relating to a residential development on Swan Lake.

The hunting club filed a petition for a writ of mandamus April 7, asking the court to order the Board of Adjustment to hold a hearing so that the club members could present their point of view on the issue.

The petition also asks that construction or sale of lots in the Swan Lake Estates be prevented until a hearing is held.

The developers, Rick and Angee Whitcomb, have platted the land for six residential lots on Swan Lake, a shallow waterfowl lake located south of Kandiyohi. The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners gave final approval to the plat Feb. 21.

The Whitcombs could not be reached for comment.

The hunting club, which owns land next to Swan Lake Estates, is questioning Zoning Administrator Gary Geer's basis for calculating the maximum buildable area on each lot.

They filed the writ of mandamus after the Board of Adjustment rejected the club's initial appeal without a hearing. The board said it didn't have jurisdiction over the issue.

The board also rejected a second appeal from the hunting club, saying the club needed to file an appeal in District Court.

In their petition for a writ of mandamus, the hunting club maintains that the Board of Adjustment is shirking its duty by not holding a hearing.

The court file said that the board "violated a duty imposed under Minnesota law."

The petition asks the court to determine if the Board of Adjustment erred when it "claimed that it lacked jurisdiction."

The Board of Adjustment -- whose members are appointed by the County Board -- is empowered to hear appeals relating to administrative decisions by zoning officials. Objections to County Board action on zoning issues must be filed in District Court.

Larry Peart, a member of the hunting club, said he and his colleagues are objecting to a specific "determination" or "decision" of the zoning administrator regarding a zoning issue. He said that legally puts the issue squarely in the hands of the Board of Adjustment.

He said the men are now being forced to go "through this rigamarole" and spend money in legal fees "to get our hearing."

Their petition said they're not asking the court to "substitute its judgement" for that of the zoning administrator or the Board of Adjustment but that "they be afforded the opportunity to present their arguments" to the board in a "fair hearing."

Kandiyohi County Attorney Boyd Beccue declined to comment on the issue.

"Since the matter is now placed in litigation, I don't feel it would be appropriate for me to comment at this point," said Beccue. "The matter is in litigation and therefore the county will address the issue as appropriate in court."

In its court file, the hunting club questioned Geer's statement of Feb. 21 to include a 50-foot unmowed buffer strip in the total buildable acreage for determining the amount of impervious surface that would be allowed in each lot. The larger the buildable acreage, the larger the home can be.

Since the buffer strip can't be built on, the hunting club said it shouldn't be allowed in the calculation for determining impervious surface.

Peart said Geer's Feb. 21 statement to the County Board that allowed the buffer strip to be counted is the opposite of what he said to the Planning Commission on May 10, 2004, that setbacks would not be included in calculating the buildable area.

Peart said the purpose of the buffer strip was to protect wetlands. Including it in the buildable acreage, which will allow more impervious surface, will be detrimental to the environment.

The members of the Swan Lake Hunting club include Peart, Dan Ahlquist, Dr. James Tiede and Guy Feldmann.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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