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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

County Giveth, County Taketh Away: Larsons Lose Building Permit

Dang—guess I should have stuck around for the rest of the meeting!

After the room cleared from the discussion of public access at the old county poor farm, the Lake County Commission had more Lake Madison excitement to discuss. Following testimony from Lake Madison resident Rod Pierson, attorney Jerome Lammers, and attorney Jay Leibel, as well as an executive session (wait a minute: executive session for a zoning matter?), the Lake County Commission retracted a building permit from Leibel's clients Matt and Cindy Larson for the house they had started building at the end of 459th Avenue on the north shore of Lake Madison.

Last month, the commission heard complaints about the Larsons' lot not being the right size, as well as some silly whining about the Larsons' planned house blocking the view and violating the pleasing symmetry of the neighborhood's existing houses. The commission issued what seemed in the paper a mixed decision, declining to issue a variance but not rescinding the building permit.

Now I must admit, I had some sympathy for the Larsons' argument that the county had looked at their application and issued the building permit. When I apply to build, I expect the county to exercise its expertise to determine whether what I want to build meets the county's rules. If the county hands me a permit, I assume I can build. If I put concrete in the ground and sticks in the air, only to have the county come back and say, "Oops! Sorry, you can't do what we said you could do," I'll be looking for someone to pay. The Larsons may be thinking the same thing.

Of course, this assumes that the permit seeker has provided all the necessary information. That's the out the county is taking here. The county is contending that the Larsons did not provide complete information on their permit application.

Rod Pierson, Larsons' neighbor, is offering all parties a way out here. He bought from Larsons the adjacent lot. He'd like to either buy their chunk or sell his chunk back to them. Whether rejoining the lots would permit either party to resume construction of the house interrupted is an open question.


  1. I drove out there to see where this home was being built. Right in the center of 459th Avenue. Not a safe place if someone drives in the fog or during a snowstorm. It is easy to see why the neighbors are concerned and the county pulled the permit.

  2. The county was right to pull the permit. Zoning regs say you can't build closer to the lake than the average setback of your nearest neighbors and Larson's home was going to infringe on the neighbors' ability to see portions of the lake. Also, Larson's lot is only 36-feet wide at the rear, so it violates the 75-foot minimum width zoning rule. This information is all public and available at the courthouse. They didn't file elevation drawings or exact dimensions which are required. It is up to the owner of the property, no the county, to make sure they have done their homework before they build. Just saying, "I didn't know that" won't fly. These folks are realtors, they should have known the rules.


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