Cass County Board: Board updates Cass land use ordinances

WALKER--Cass County's long-standing requirement that sewer systems be inspected for compliance with any new permit application has been so successful, the vast majority of non-compliant systems were updated, planner Paul Fairbanks told the county...


WALKER-Cass County's long-standing requirement that sewer systems be inspected for compliance with any new permit application has been so successful, the vast majority of non-compliant systems were updated, planner Paul Fairbanks told the county board in June.

Therefore, changes the board adopted July 3 to the countywide land use ordinance will relax sewer inspection requirements for some new permits.

If a landowner received a private septic system certificate of installation less than 5 years old or a certificate of compliance less than 3 years old, they will continue to be exempt from the new inspection requirement.

New in the July revision, people seeking a permit for a fence, shoreland alteration, garage (without living quarters), storage shed or for a deck or patio without a roof no longer need their sewer inspected before getting a permit.

Private sewer systems are sized and designed for the number of bedrooms the system serves.


Sewer inspections will still be required for any new building or addition to an existing building that is a sewered structure (primary residence or accessory dwelling unit with plumbing), for land use reclassification, for a conditional use permit, for a variance, for a conveyance of real estate ownership, for a change in property use affecting the sewer or if the county receives a report the sewer may be failing.

In other changes to the ordinance, the "guest quarters" and "guest cottage" definitions were consolidated into one for "accessory dwelling unit," which covers a structure for "living and/or sleeping, cooking, eating and sanitation on the same parcel as, and not attached to the single-family dwelling it accompanies."

No accessory structure can be used for living quarters unless the structure meets accessory dwelling unit standards. Accessory structures are limited in height to 24 feet on riparian lots and 30 feet on non-riparian lots within the shoreland (one-fourth mile from waterway) district.

Accessory dwelling units cannot exceed 700 square feet, be contained or converted from a non-conforming building, exceed 24 feet in height if attached to a primary dwelling or 15 feet if a stand-alone building.

All must either be connected to an adequately sized primary sewer system for the property or have its own sewer. Only one accessory dwelling per property will be permitted.

A residential structure is now defined as: "Any building, recreational vehicle, travel trailer or place which may be used or intended to be used for sleeping, which may or not provide sanitary or kitchen facilities."

A temporary structure is now defined as: "Any structure placed on a property for less than consecutive 14 days."

The updates also relaxed standards for horses and other farm animals, because more people have been asking to keep a horse or have chickens or other farm animals on their property.


All will require a manure management plan. One animal unit equals one horse-sized animal.

On a lot riparian to waterways, only one-fourth of an animal unit will be allowed on under an acre, one unit for one to 2 acres or two units on riparian lots over 2 acres.

All animal units less than one-fourth of a unit must be kept behind the normal lake setback for the lake where they are kept.

Non-riparian lots classed Rural Residential 10 or less will be allowed to have one animal unit on less than 1 acre, two animal units on 1-2 acres. A non-riparian lot having 2 to 3 acres will be allowed two animal units and greater than 3 acres, three animal units.

Non-shoreland properties classed Rural Residential 10 or smaller will be allowed four animal units on 2 to 3 acres and six animal units on over 3 acres.

The animal unit limits do not apply to agricultural classed properties.

Restrictions will increase for slopes greater than 18 percent. Walkout basements will be prohibited on slopes greater than 18 percent and shoreland alteration permits required to install steps to a lake. Mechanical earth movers are not allowed to operate in bluff impact zones greater than 18 percent.

People using a shoreland alteration permit will now have until Nov. 1 to complete the work rather than just to July 1 as in the past.


All lake setbacks from a waterway will be measured to the structure unless the building overhang exceeds 30 inches.

No permit is required for agricultural fences.

All other boundary fences do require a permit.

A fence is considered a structure, so must meet waterway setbacks to structures. It now may be installed at the lot line, but must be fully on the installing person's property and cannot overlap into the neighbor's.

Both sides of a fence must be of similar finish and now are required to be finished in earth tones.

When a sewer tank or drainfield is replaced, but not the other half of the system, there must also be a certificate of compliance for the portion not being replaced.

Anyone with questions about the changes can contact the Environmental Services Department by calling 218-547-7241. Visit for a copy of the ordinance changes.

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