Hunting club asks board to reconsider denial of Swan Lake appeal

WILLMAR -- The Swan Lake Hunting Club is asking the Kandiyohi County Board of Adjustment to reconsider a denial of the club's appeal for a residential development on Swan Lake.

WILLMAR -- The Swan Lake Hunting Club is asking the Kandiyohi County Board of Adjustment to reconsider a denial of the club's appeal for a residential development on Swan Lake.

The board rejected the club's first appeal on March 13 without a hearing. The club has "appealed the appeal," said Larry Peart, a member of the hunting club.

Gary Geer, planning and zoning commissioner, said the first denial was made because the board of adjustment does not have jurisdiction over the issue.

He said the same argument will apply to the second appeal.

In February, the Kandiyohi County Commissioners approved a plat for Swan Lake Estates on a 3-2 vote. The land owners, Rich and Angie Whitcomb, intend to develop six residential lots on the site.


The hunting club owns land next to the site, which is located near a shallow lake south of Kandiyohi. Club members have said housing there will harm the quality of Swan Lake and will limit the club's hunting activities.

The Whitcombs's attorney, Wally Gustafson, told the County Commissioners in February that his clients have every right to develop the land and the site will provide a quiet rural atmosphere for residents. The hunting club had the option to appeal the County Commissioners' decision, but that would have launched the proceedings into District Court.

The club was reluctant to do that, said Peart, because the court's typically rule in favor of counties on zoning issues.

Instead, the club appealed to the county board of adjustments because of a statement that Geer made to the County Commissioners about the buildable area of the lots.

Geer told the County Commissioners that a 50-foot un-mowed buffer strip can be included in the total buildable area in each lot.

Peart said Geer's statement was wrong.

He said that by including the buffer strip, the lots were able to meet the requirement of having an impervious surface of no more than 15 percent of the buildable area. Because the un-mowed buffer strip is not buildable, Peart said it shouldn't be used in calculating the buildable area of each lot.

Geer disagrees with that assessment of the buffer strip.


County Attorney Boy Beccue said this issue is "not appealable" to the board of adjustment because it's out of their jurisdiction. He said "decisions" by a zoning administrator can be appealed to the board. But Beccue said the hunting club's allegation that the county board based their decision on Geer's opinion is not appealable to the board of adjustment.

"They're playing split hairs here," said Peart.

He said state law says that "determinations" made by an administrative officer can be appealed to the board of adjustment without going to District Court. That's why the hunting club filed their first appeal with the board and requested a hearing within 60 days.

On March 13 the board of adjustment issued a statement that said they did not have jurisdiction over issues raised in the appeal. Citing state law, they denied the appeal without a hearing.

Peart said the club was not notified by Geer's office that the board would be addressing their appeal on that day. "If we had been notified, we would have been there," said Peart.

Geer said the board has never dealt with an appeal before but didn't believe they were required to send a notice to the hunting club.

Even though the county ordinance says the board "shall" hold a hearing on an appeal, Geer said the board had no jurisdiction over the issue and therefore a hearing wasn't held.

The hunting club, also citing state law and the county zoning ordinance, disagrees with the claim that the board doesn't have jurisdiction. "It's in direct conflict with the statutes," said Peart, which is why they filed a second appeal.


Beccue said if the hunting club wants to appeal the board's decision, they need to file it in District Court.

Geer said he intends to send a letter to the hunting club next week with that message.

Peart said he and the other three members of the hunting club will now reconsider taking the issue to District Court

Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at or 320-894-9750
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