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Board upholds the decision of county zoning administrator on the definition of ag building

The Kandiyohi County zoning department says this structure is a house with an attached garage. Owner Duane Hultgren said it's an agricultural building. Hultgren lost an appeal Monday on his request to have it classified as an ag structure. Submitted photo

WILLMAR -- The Kandiyohi County Board of Adjustment upheld the actions of zoning administrator Gary Geer during an appeal process Monday that questioned the definition of an agricultural building.

Duane Hultgren, who lost his argument in the case, said he will likely file another appeal. This time the argument will be heard in court.

Several members of the board sympathized with Hultgren's situation and suggested the ordinance may not be perfect, but said Geer correctly interpreted the existing county ordinance.

Hultgren said Geer's interpretation was not correct and the situation is "just a bad piece of government."

He said the five-member board of adjustment, a volunteer board made up of residents appointed by the county board, had the ability to interpret the ordinance differently.

"I won't be going away," Hultgren said after the vote. "It's not over yet."

The case involves a building that Hultgren constructed on farmland he owns in Colfax Township in the northern part of the county.

Saying he didn't know one was needed, Hultgren did not obtain a required building permit until long after the project was done. While getting a permit and paying a late fee in 2008 Hultgren was told the structure did not meet building codes for a dwelling.

Last month requested an agricultural land use permit that would exempt the structure from certain building codes.

Geer denied that request and Hultgren appealed Geer's decision to the board of adjustment.

The argument boiled down to a definition of what is an agricultural building.

The structure includes a metal machine shed with a dirt floor and no door that houses large farm equipment, including a combine, 12 months a year.

An extension of the shed includes an attached seasonal structure with a kitchen, bathroom, dining area and four bedrooms. Hultgren said he uses the living facilities occasionally when he's tending field irrigators and his family uses it two weekends a year as a "hunting shack."

Since the $60,000 building is primarily used for agriculture, Hultgren said it should be classified as an agricultural building.

Under the county ordinance, however, it's classified as a house with an attached garage valued at $180,000 that must conform to the appropriate building codes.

"This is all about interpretation," Hultgren said.

Because the building includes living quarters, Geer said it doesn't meet the definition of an ag building for housing machinery, livestock or produce and therefore can't be permitted as such.

Board member Suzanne Napgezek disputed Hultgren's argument that the building wasn't habitable. She said the residential portion looked very comfortable and that a family could live there, even if Hultgren only chose to be there occasionally.

Geer said if Hultgren separated the two buildings the shed would not have to meet the same building codes as a garage.

Carolyn Lange

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

(320) 894-9750