Driving County Roads

An on line journal sharing my views. The content reflects my background as a rural person employed in agriculture and as a retired elected official of local government.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A TEACHABLE MOMENT

The recent flood event provides us with a "teachable moment" regarding the purpose of Nicollet County's land use ordinance. Perhaps this flood disaster can help explain and clarify some questions that have surfaced regarding conforming and non-conforming uses in Nicollet County.

Our hearts go out to the folks in other counties who suffered extreme damage. The fact that Nicollet County was almost spared from the flood, points to the value of good planning and zoning. Excluding the city of St. Peter, Nicollet County citizens, received very little flood damage. Why did this happen? It happened because the officials in Nicollet County long ago put plans in place that prevented development in the floodplain areas of the county. This action made previous conforming uses in the floodplain, non-conforming.

There was a time when many homes, farms, and businesses were located near the river, in the floodplain. And during that time, the river flooded and damaged those properties time and time again. In 1992 Nicollet County officials, listened to the citizens of the county who said, "it does not make sense to allow development in the floodplain." The decision was made to make new development in the floodplain a non-conforming use-thus prohibiting development.

At that time existing buildings or businesses in the flood plain were allowed to stay in place. They were grandfathered in until such time when their use was discontinued for a 12 month period of time, or the buildings became uninhabitable or were destroyed. (See Nicollet County Land Use Ordinance Section 401.4 Non-Conforming Uses and Structures-www.co.nicollet.mn.us) Once this happened, the buildings, businesses, billboards, or other property became a non-conforming use. During the past, after significant floods, some of these properties were "bought out" by mitigation programs using federal and state dollars. As a result, our county can experience a 1000 year flood and suffer little or no damages.

This is an excellent example of why land use ordinances allow only permitted uses in various areas. Thus, we are saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in the way of personal losses, insurance losses, and FEMA claims. end

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