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Supervisors approve zoning ordinance

Farm Bureau reps object to agriculture exemption application

January 29, 2013
By Michael Tidemann - Staff Writer , Estherville Daily News

The Emmet County Board of Supervisors Tuesday held third reading and had final approval of the 2013 zoning ordinance.

Approval came only after objection by Farm Bureau representatives to a requirement in the ordinance that rural residents apply for an ag exemption.

The county received an email objection from Emmet County Farm Bureau president Jay Gunderson. Jim Boyer, also representing Farm Bureau, was present at Tuesday's meeting.

Gunderson and Boyer were specifically objecting to Section 2.2 which states in part:

"To enable Emmet County to determine whether zoning compliance is farm exempt, the county shall require all persons or owners constructing, erecting, placing or moving dwellings, buildings and structures in the unincorporated area to submit an application for farm exemption."

The section goes on to say that the Emmet County zoning administrator will then make a determination of farm exemption of the proposed building improvements. The ordinance also states that the information will be used for county assessment purposes. There will no permit fees; however, failure to submit an application will be prosecuted and penalized.

Gunderson's written objection stated the following points:

n Iowa Code section 335.2 says that the zoning ordinance shall not apply to agricultural buildings and structures or farm dwellings. Therefore, structures which meet the definition are not required to comply with the ordinance under Iowa law.

n The county board of supervisors and the county assessor does not have authority under the state assessment law to require landowners to submit an application under a zoning ordinance. Landowners must cooperate with the assessor but they do not have the affirmative duty under the law to submit an application to comply with the assessment law.

n The requirement increases the burden on landowners to have knowledge of and prepare the paperwork to submit to the county. This is an unnecessary burden to place on the county's residents.

n Further, Iowa law prohibits the county from any regulation of animal feeding operations. To the extent this ordinance requires an application or permit for any structure related to an animal feeding operation, the ordinance is invalid under Iowa Code section 331.304A.

County attorney Doug Hansen said the Emmet County Planning and Zoning Commission made recommendations for the ordinance to which the board of supervisors was free to make changes. He said the board could also make changes after adoption.

"I don't see a reason to strike this," supervisor Tim Schumacher said of Gunderson's request to strike the section pertaining to farm exemption.

"I don't see a reason to strike it either," agreed supervisor Bev Juhl.

"I don't see it as a time to strike it," agreed supervisor Jon Martyr.

"I believe that we're creating here a regulation for a situation that isn't out there," said Boyer, adding that the ordinance was essentially "trying to cover for the assessor's office."

Boyer said the county already had ordinances to rectify building assessments.

"The intent of this seems to be for the assessors and not zoning," Boyer said.

Board Chair Alan Madden said he had consulted with ISAC (Iowa State Association of Counties) and that there would be fewer problems if the county didn't have to go back and collect taxes. And if it proves that after a year the section isn't working, Madden said, "then it goes."

Boyer asked the board if it has "any idea as to what the cost to the county could be if that ever is tested." He said if the county assesses farmers fines for not applying for an exemption, then it could be contested in court.

Madden said there are ways of testing without getting into a court battle.

Assessor Barb Bohm clarified that she had no hand in drafting the ordinance.

Boyer continued to object to what he saw as more regulation.

"Because of regulations I have to pay a company $2,500 to create two stacks of papers that high," Boyer said.

"This is very reasonable," said Martyr of the exemption application.

"We have to have some way to manage it," said Schumacher. "We're exempt from zoning but we're not exempt from taxes."

Madden said the exemption application also offers another opportunity to determine clearance for utility lines. "It's nice to have that out of the way before they pour cement," he said.

Hansen said the section in question made sense because if a farmer notified the county, then it could be determined if the structure were commercial and not farm exempt. He said that could help deal with situations before they become problems.

The board approved the ordinance. Hansen said the ordinance would not become effective until after it was published. He said he would also look at publishing the zoning map.

Earlier in the morning, the board approved the 2013 subdivision regulations ordinance.



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