Evaluation of the 3/27/07 Version (latest) of the

Proposed Revisions to the

Cass County Land Use Ordinance



July 11, 2007



The following is a summary of the ACCL evaluation of the latest version of the Cass County Land Use Ordinance revisions relating to Developments.  It appears that many of the concepts of the DNR Alternative Shoreland Management Standards have been incorporated and a few innovative concepts have been added.



Background :


Over the past few years there has been considerable concern over ‘high density’ developments on the shoreland area of the lakes in Cass County.  Conservationalists, Lake Associations, and individual lake shore property owners have expressed concern over the potentially negative effect on water quality that these types of developments might have.


Almost 18 months ago (February 7, 2006), the Cass County Board of Commissioners established a moratorium on any new Planned Unit Developments (PUD’s).  On March 7, 2006 the Board lifted the moratorium and referred the revision process to the Board of Adjustment (BOA), ESD Advisory Committee (ESDAC) and the Planning Commission (PC) for comment and to report back to the Board.


This ‘Joint Committee’ (BOA, ESDAC, PC, and ESD staff) met for the first time on May 23, 2006 with Jim Ballenthin, Cass County Soil & Water Conservation District Board Member serving as Facilitator.  In addition to the above mentioned groups there were also representatives of the development community and ACCL participating in the revision process.  Over the course of the next 10 months, the Joint Committee (and a smaller sub-committee) met 9 times.  Mr. Paul Radomski, DNR Scientist, served as technical advisor to the sub-committee and Joint Committee. 


The results of the work of this group is the proposed revision (3/27/07 version) to the Cass County Land Use Ordinance called DEVELOP STANDARDS and is posted on the county’s website.



Current Situation:


ACCL members have attended each of the meetings over the past 18 months and represented the interests of lake associations and shoreland property owners.  As in any process such as this, probably no one is 100% satisfied with the results.  The purpose of this document is to inform lake association members so they can attend the public meetings scheduled in the county from July 16 through July 30 and provide ‘public’ input to the process.



Those items that are included in the proposed (3/27/07) version of the DEVELOPMENT STANDARDS which ACCL considers to be desirable are listed below:


1 – the requirement that a ‘pre-project review’ of all development proposals be conducted before formal applications are accepted.  An interagency Technical Review Panel (TRP) is established to make recommendations on development proposals.  ACCL supports this new approach.


2 – the provision that the new Development Standards apply to all new subdivisions of real estate in the unincorporated areas of Cass County.


3 – the provision that Conservation Developments abutting public waters are limited to land areas containing at least three contiguous acres of buildable area with a (riparian) lot width of 400 feet.  (This is consistent with the DNR Alternative Standards)


4 – the return of the ‘tier’ concept.  While ACCL would prefer three tiers, it supports the position that at least two are included in the revised version.


5 – limiting the number of dwelling unit lots in the first tier to no more than the number resulting from the division of the riparian lot width by the minimum riparian lot width by lake class.


6 – a requirement of at least 50% of the total project area as permanent common open space protected by a conservation easement.


7 – limiting the maximum number of ‘continuous watercraft mooring spaces’ for Conservation Developments to the equivalent of one per minimum lot width for riparian lots.


8 – maintaining minimum setbacks at 120 feet for GD lakes and 150 feet for RD lakes in Conservational Developments.


9 – allowing the use of narrower roads in Conservation Developments than are specified in a Conventional (lot & block) Development.


10 – requiring 25% of the land area to be subtracted before calculating the number of building sites allowed in Conventional (lot & block) Developments.


11 – the provision that all residential developments of 10 or more lots or dwelling units when there is common open space will have an owners association.


12 - requiring additional open space in Conventional Developments located in the Shoreland Area. 



Recommended Modifications:


ACCL recommends that the proposed (3/27/07) version of the DEVELOPMENT STANDARDS be modified to incorporate the two provisions outlined below prior to reporting back to the Cass County Board of Commissioners:


1 – Include the restriction that impervious surface coverage be limited to 15% in each tier and 15% for the total parcel area.


Reasoning:  The DNR has determined that rainwater runoff is the single greatest threat to water quality.  Hydrology research shows that when impervious surface coverage in an area exceeds about 10-12% water quality is negatively impacted.  Hydrologists generally recommend a 10-15% impervious coverage limit in Shorelands to protect water quality.  (Shoreland is defined in Cass County as the land located within 1320 feet from the waters edge)



2 – Modify Section 1116.73.B.5 of the proposed version (relating to launching ramp facilities) to include the restriction that no ‘day docks’ nor ‘launching ramp facilities’ for use by occupants of dwelling unit lots in the same Conservation Development without continuous watercraft mooring spaces be allowed (unless the lake does not have a public access boat launching facility).  


Reasoning:  This restriction is consistent with the DNR Alternative Standards and also the County’s prohibition of Controlled Access Lots in Conventional Developments.


ACCL supports the concept of lake lots & back lots.  Lake lots have water access privileges and back lots don’t.  Back lots can access the water only through public access ramps (generally maintained by the DNR).  A launching ramp facility would only be allowed if the waterbody does not have a public access boat launching facility.


The DNR Alternative Standards state:  “If the waterbody does not have a public access boat launching facility, launching ramp facilities, including a small dock for loading and unloading equipment, may be provided for use by occupants of dwelling units/sites located in other tiers, and their watercraft shall be stored outside the shore impact zone such they are not visible from the public water.”





ACCL supports the adoption of the Proposed Revisions (3/27/07 version) with the incorporation of modifications #1 and #2 outlined above. 



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ACCL wishes to thank the ESD staff, Jim Ballenthin, as facilitator, and the members of the sub-committee and Joint Committee for the work that has been accomplished during the past 18 months.