Council considers $500 fines for zoning infractions
August 12. 2014 1:30PM
City aldermen want more time to decide what kind of punishment to hand down after construction of a home in Dell Rapids started more than two months ahead of schedule.
A five-acre parcel of land in north central Dell Rapids being developed by Dells Investment Group, Inc. (DIG) is gradually filling with new homes. One of the lots – 1408 Ripple Creek Road – hasn’t been rezoned for a residential home and is still classified for city agriculture. But that didn’t stop workers from pouring the basement foundation July 29, a day after a formal order to stop construction came from City Hall. Work continued through July 30.
At the council’s regular meeting Monday, Aug. 5, alderman Mark Crisp, who’s son Josh is leading the work on the lot in violation, admitted building started ahead of receiving the necessary paperwork – the rezone and a building permit – but insisted that’s how business has been done in Dell Rapids for more than two decades.
“You got me on that one. A lot of times we’re busy, we get going on it and things don’t get filed,” he said. “The way that it used to be is (someone from the city) will stop by and say, ‘Hey, Mark. Did you forget something?’ People used to look after you in a small community. Anymore, they’re just looking for a way to drill you.”
Alderman Lee Burggraff, who along with Crisp and Art Eulberg own DIG, said it isn’t fair to make an example out of Crisp when the city has traditionally let early construction slide.
“This has been going on since Pony Hills got started,” he said. “If you want to change it now, then that’s fine. But this is not by far the first one that this has happened with.”
City administrator Justin Weiland said this week that occasionally in the past building permits have been issued for lots still in the rezone process, but they shouldn’t have been. The city is trying to start an era of consistency, he said.
“We want to make sure that this isn’t taking place in the future and all the developers are following the rules in the same way,” Weiland said. “It’s not like this is the first time we’ve stopped building. But now we’re trying to be more consistent.”
City ordinance stipulates that any building without a permit is punishable by fining the applicant an amount equal to the value of the building permit. Penalties for zoning violations aren’t as clear cut.
When the city council amended its zoning ordinances in 2011, fines and penalties for violations were to be set in a separate resolution by the city council, but that never happened.
Weiland proposed a resolution last week that set the fine for a zoning infraction at up to $500 per day that a violation occurs.
“What I’m presenting in front of the council right now is a penalty of not more than $500 for each day that the violation continues,” he said.
Burggraff said the proposed fine amount is too high and gives too much discretion to the code enforcer.
“I think that’s way too stiff, and who makes that decision?” he said.
The resolution, which would give Weiland the authority to assess fine amounts not exceeding $500 per day, was tabled and referred to the council’s policies and procedures committee.
“It comes down to an amount and what is acceptable,” Weiland said. “It’s important that something is adopted at some point.”