All Planning and Zoning Commission members were in attendance for a regular meeting held in person at the County Courthouse and via Zoom on March 17, 2021, assisted by Wayne Davidson, Building Inspector, and Mitch Poulsen, County Planning and Zoning Administrator. The agenda was unanimously approved as printed.
The Heeder lot split at 228 1st West in Bern was taken out of order inasmuch as the Knoll preliminary plat representative was not yet in attendance. The applicant’s son, Steve Heeder, made the presentation on behalf of his parents who own the property. After discussing the application and being advised the property lies in the Bern community zone, unanimous approval was given the motion to approve the lot split. Poulsen added an approval letter will be sent in the next week or two then the matter goes to the county commissioners. In the interim, the applicant expects to hire a surveyor.
A public hearing regarding the Knolls preliminary plat was held. Poulsen explained the applicant making a presentation followed by the administrator’s remarks. The audience (in person and by Zoom) could then offer comments followed by a rebuttal by the applicant and the Planning Commission deliberations. Nate Parry represented The Knolls development’s preliminary plat to explain economics had changed and, even though it has been a long time since the first presentation on this vicinity, he returned requesting preliminary plat approval because the current situation merits moving forward. In the past, there were sixteen lots approved, then two more lots for a total of 18. The current proposal is to reduce to 16 total. The clubhouse and pool improvements have been installed. There were some comments made by Poulsen during lead-up meetings but Parry believed everything is on the plat. Kristy Crane, P&Z member, requested information on total units and Parry responded that The Knolls was originally designed in 2007 for triplexes and one four-plex but now prospective buyers prefer larger units so the original marketing plan has been reduced with duplexes instead of triplexes. Asked whether surrounding owners know of the change, Parry stated that the 7800 acres remains at a total of 520 units and even though a road or two may have been adjusted, the original marketing plan otherwise remains unchanged from 2007. Chairman Johnson inquired about replicating density and was told this is the first high density area in the overall development but the Terrace is still to come in high density but it will be one unit per acre considering the area surrounding it. The Knolls units will be anywhere from 16 to 30 feet apart, depending on the angle at which each is laid out. Building and fire code will be followed, Parry added, which includes firewalls of two-hour duration between duplexes. Purchasers will own the ground under the unit plus 20’ bordering the home. Poulsen commented that the original master plan was approved with this development included. The State Department of Environmental Quality had a few comments but Poulsen stated the project looks good. Comments were made by Zoom participants regarding access along Fish Haven Cemetery Road but Parry stated these residences will be accessed through The Reserve’s main entry to the north.
Discussion concerning short-term parking led to a question whether parking is allowed on roadsides but Parry explained ample parking area is designated in the new subdivision. Further, short-term rentals are not allowed in The Reserve, Parry noted, but he added 60% to 70% of buyers are renting to justify the purchase price. He suggested the County look at regulating short-term rentals and he noted that Garden City does regulate rentals which have impacts on roads and trash removal, as examples. As a result of the regulations, Garden City has received a boost in tax revenue. Some comments were made regarding cities being allowed to regulate short-term rentals but there were questions whether counties could do so. A motion was unanimously approved to end the public hearing and return to regular business. Following brief discussion, the preliminary plat application for The Knolls was unanimously approved as presented.
Spencer Bailey applied for three lot splits, two in St. Charles and another in Fish Haven Canyon. Addressing Fish Haven Canyon first, Bailey explained he had met with the P&Z previously regarding his desire to subdivide near the border with the Bureau of Land Management at the top of the Canyon. Having looked at issues such as sewer access, the developer opted to build a single residence on the western-most lot under the proposed lot split of the 18.6 acre total. Bailey has been in conversation with the county commissioners to petition to move and improve a snowmobile trailhead, build the adjacent access road to county standards then trade the county an acre for a parking lot which was delineated on an aerial map he presented. The acre for a parking lot was not considered as a lot under the scenario Bailey stated. There is electricity on site, water is available from Canyon Estates and the Health Department has approved a septic system. Bailey added that the lot delineated in green is not being developed at this time. There were no comments by the P&Z members and a motion was unanimously approved to permit the lot split.
Referring to a second aerial map, Bailey displayed his ownership of two parcels located adjacent to Jericho Loop in St Charles. The first parcel had been the result of an illegal lot split in the past and because Bailey had a desire to modify the parcel created by that illegal split, he had been encouraged to correct the original illegal lot split. He desired to conduct a second lot split of his adjacent property to the east of the original illegal lot split then he intended to take portions of the eastern and western lots created under the two lot splits and make a lot line adjustment to combine portions of both newly-created lots into one lot. Responding to a question by Kristy Crane, Poulsen stated that there is a question when the lot split restriction clock begins to run with respect to the original illegal lot split. He did not know if the regulation requiring five years before a second lot split or other action began ticking when the original illegal lot split was recorded with the county, triggering a notation on the plat that the lots were illegally split, or if it began at the time a lot split was approved for those two lots which would mean the clock commenced at this meeting, as examples.
Bailey explained his purpose in the adjustments proposed was to separate the home from the large shop for operational purposes and to clean up the illegal lot split, making three lots out of two would be the end result, he remarked, in response to Kristy Crane’s inquiry regarding a precedent on the lot line adjustment.
Chairman Johnson commented he would entertain a motion to accept the proposal to fix the illegal lot split and approve the lot splits. A motion and second to do so was unanimously approved. Poulsen remarked he would explain the situation to Dale Thornock who does the county’s mapping.
The County’s Subdivision Ordinance states “[t]he lot created by the lot split and the parent parcel may not be further divided for five years.” County authorities contacted outside counsel regarding the ordinance provisions pertaining to the Bailey lot splits and lot line adjustment matters, but no response was reported to the News-Examiner as of press time.
The commission members discussed various topics such as short-term rental, various municipalities adopting building code, new owners anticipating winter road maintenance in remote areas of the county and Mark Parker, County Fire Chief, noted he would be attending a webinar which may give insight on short-term rentals. Kristy Crane requested the matter be added to the next agenda for further discussion with information for county oversight as well as data concerning what businesses qualify as recreation – campgrounds, RV parks, etc. Comment was made that contacts have been made regarding campground developments near the lake but due to wetlands and the necessity of providing deceleration lanes, the actual buildable area is greatly reduced. In an explanation regarding a past application, due to public opposition, Chairman Johnson reported a gravel pit applicant opted not to pursue the matter further.