An Oliver Lake lot’s width was a point of contention for the LaGrange County Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) Tuesday evening.
Lotowner Joe Retterbush was asking for a lot width variance of just over 55 ft., where 100 ft. is the standard for an L-1 zone. LaGrange attorney Fred Hartz represented Retterbush and told the BZA that the variance was needed due to the topography of the lot. Without the variance, the lot would be unbuildable, Hartz noted, greatly devaluing the lot.
Part of the lot in question, along with a neighboring lot that was owned by Mark Leu at the time, was exchanged earlier to create simpler lot lines. The initial lines were odd due to a house that once stood on the property. Leu told the board that they did not realize it would create a hardship when they did the land exchange.
Attorney Bill Eberhard represented the neighbor, Martin Heiny, to remonstrate against the variance. “The hardship that put this in front of you was created by the property owner asking for relief,” Eberhard noted, adding that the BZA could not create a variance if the problem was created by the owner.
Eberhard told the BZA that the lot being devalued should not be a principal concern, as it would still have considerable value.
Hartz responded that the hardship was created through good intentions when Leu and Retterbush exchanged the lot portions. “Why buy it then if it is unbuildable?” Hartz asked. He later added that, without the variance that would allow a residence to be built on the lot, “The only use would be to pitch a tent or drop a fishing line in there.”
Hartz also countered that the variance is the minimum needed and that this hardship was peculiar to the property.
Of the conditions the BZA considers in a variance request, one is whether or not the hardship was created by the owners themselves. The BZA’s legal counsel, Lisa Bowen-Slaven, told the board that she was not aware of any exemption to that standard. She added that it would have to be shown that there is “no reasonable use of the property if you don’t approve the variance” if they were to consider approval.
“The only reason I can think of is that the two individuals didn’t know they were creating a hardship,” noted BZA President Lynn Bowen.
The BZA approved the variance request for the narrower lot width.
In other business:
The BZA approved a meteorological testing tower to be located near 9120W 300S in Topeka. The tower will be installed by APEX, which is doing a study on the potential for a wind energy farm in the area. If the results from the tower are positive, the farm could be installed as early as 2014 or 2015.
A variance request for a side setback and roadside setback for Shipshe View School at 4605N 675W in Shipshewana was denied. The board felt there was room enough on the lot to build within the 85 ft. roadside setback for both the school and a small barn that was proposed.
The board approved a variance for Indian Trails Furniture at 1890W 450N in Howe, to exceed 10,000 sq. ft. for a farm-based business.
Janet Hoslinger of 9965E 750N had an application for a 70 ft. roadside setback to build an enclosed porch approved. The standard is 80 ft.
It was announced that the BZA Agricultural Committee will meet at 7 p.m. on Nov. 14 at the county office building in LaGrange to discuss Animal Feeding Operations (AFO), Confined Feeding Operations (CFO) and Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) setbacks and site plans.