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Hearing will address possible changes in Cass zoning

WALKER – Cass County commissioners will conduct a public hearing at the board’s 10 a.m. Nov. 18 meeting Dec. 18 at the courthouse in Walker in preparation to adopting changes to three county zoning ordinances.

Current versions of the ordinances have been in effect since 2009.

One public hearing was conducted earlier this year before the planning commission. The Dec. 18 hearing will constitute a second reading in preparation for adoption.

It is proposed to amend the Cass County Subdivision and Platting Ordinance to extend the current 120 days to one year for persons to record the plat after receiving approval from the planning commission.

If the plat is not recorded within one year or a time extension received from the planning commission, the plat becomes null and void under the new version.

The ordinance of zoning definitions is proposed to include new definitions for the following terms: berm, buffer zone, fence, forbs, macrophytic, manufactured housing park, native, resort, screening, shrub, strata, tree, vegetation and wetland.

The most extensive definition change is for resort, which applies to a commercial establishment containing three or more units for transient occupation by guests. Resort dwelling units and camping sites must be available for rent at least 51 percent of the year.

Residential use (maximum four units) except for service providers is prohibited. The commercial establishment running the resort must own or lease and control the entire land parcel where the resort operates.

Further explanation of definition details can be viewed on the county website at A complete version of the proposed Land Use Ordinance for Cass County also can be viewed at that website.

The completely new version of Land Use Zoning Ordinance regulations for resorts covers replacement and expansion of buildings within existing resorts, criteria for creating new resorts, conversion of resorts between types of resort uses and conversion of resorts to residential uses.

With the exception of replacing existing buildings on an existing resort and, in some cases, expanding on a resort existing prior to August 2005 (lifetime limit of six new units per resort), all resorts must obtain a new conditional use permit to do construction at or create a new resort. Details of the resort section can be found in Section 1104.9 of the Land Use Ordinance.

With some exceptions in a C-1 commercial district, a conditional use permit is proposed to be required for a convenience store/gas station, kennel, motor vehicle service station, outdoor recreation facility, outdoor storage, water oriented restaurant and marina.

The other section in the Land Use Ordinance which has largely been re-written is that covering earth moving, not only as it applies to moving soils on a residential lot/acreage both within and outside the shoreland district lying within one-fourth mile of a public waterway, but also as it applies to gravel pits and other extractive uses.

These are Sections 1106 and 1107 of the Land Use Ordinance.

The proposed changes provide separate criteria for existing gravel pits if they are active within five years of this ordinance change approval versus a new gravel pit operation approved after the ordinance changes take effect.

Pits being operated within a half mile of residences will have to limit daily operating hours and not be able to operate on legal holidays. New pits would not be allowed within one-fourth mile of a public water.

There are changes to the shoreland alteration section to encourage the use of vegetation and discourage the use of rock riprap except where active erosion problems exist that cannot be controlled with vegetation. Ornamental rock or retaining wall systems for purely decorative purposes would not be approved.

The revised ordinance creates airport safety zones.

Prior versions of the ordinance permitted approval for variances in cases of “practical difficulties” or “hardship”. Under the revision, “practical difficulties” only is allowed for consideration, with those limited to something caused by the nature of the locality and not created by the landowner. No variances will be allowed for something not permitted in the zoning district where the property is located.

Variances and conditional uses lapse if not used within two years of issuance.