County Denies Proposed Land Code Amendment

Dunn County citizens for Local Control filled the Aug. 19 county commissioners meeting to show support for a proposed protest amendment to the Dunn County Land Code.

By Pam Kukla

For The DC Herald

The meeting was also attended by supporters of the High Plains Cultural Center.

Beth Baumstark, legal representative for the Dunn County Citizens for Local Control, explained the protest amendment to the commissioners. She said the amendment stemmed from the 60% provision that had been taken out of the code earlier. Baumstark repeatedly stressed to the commissioners that the amendment wouldn’t take any control away from them. The protest couldn’t take place until after the planning and zoning board and commissioners had voted to approve the landfill conditional use permit. After both approvals then residents could file a protest. Baumstark said the amendment was similar to one used in Stark County.

The commissioners asked for legal advice from state’s attorney Pat Merriman. Merriman stated he had concerns similar to Arie Johnson, the attorney for the planning and zoning board. Merriman felt this amendment ignored the process already in place for approval of conditional use permits and questioned why the language of the amendment wasn’t consistent when discussing solid and special waste landfills. “They are both used but they are different landfills,” he added. He also addressed the question of why he and Johnson had been unable to help draft language for the amendment. “It would be a conflict of interest,” he said.

The biggest issue with the amendment explained Merriman was the unanimous vote. The protest amendment would call for there to be a unanimous vote by the commissioners. Merriman said requiring a unanimous vote is illegal and would give one commissioner all the power. “There is nothing in this proposal that I can support,” he added.

All of the commissioners voted against the amendment and explained their reasons for the vote to the audience. They said they had problems with the requirement of the majority vote of all five commissioners. They also said they believed the planning and zoning board was gathering information on landfills and should be given time to work on the landfill questions.

Resident Mark Kovash expressed his frustration at the vote. “You guys were voted in to support us. We get the feeling you aren’t on our side. We have tried everything,” he said. Commissioner Reinhard Hauck responded by saying, “You have a large group, but you don’t speak for the whole county.”

Board members of the High Plains Cultural Center also met with the commissioners. Terrald Bang asked for financial support for an audit of the center’s records, the continued 1 mil levy support for the fair board and suggestions on how to keep the center open and running. Dave Twist handed out the profit and loss statements for the first six months of operation. “We are running short of cash,” he said. Currently HPCC is getting petitions signed for a special election for a percentage of city sales tax and have an ongoing capital campaign. Hauck mentioned the latest legislative session that approved a capital projects fund that could be used towards building loans.

Board members discussed the potential of the center, especially during this year’s county fair. “This is something great for the whole community. It’s one of the only landmark things from the oil boom,” said supporter Jim Jeske. “I think it’s a great place. I meet women who live in campers who are there with their children. The taxpayers have to support the community centers everywhere. It is a good place,” added supporter Penny Lee. The commissioners decided to fund an audit before any further decisions were made.

NDSU Extension Agent Becky Buchmann complemented the 4H participants at the ND State Fair and Dunn County Fair. “Our youth did an excellent job. The coolest thing was watching the kids encourage each other. They are a wonderful and fun group of kids to work with,” she said.

Buchmann also updated the commissioners on the revamped food pantry. Cash Wise has started making a weekly donation. The food pantry served 11 families in July and has served 24 families in August so far. “It has really taken off,” she said.

The commissioners closed the meeting with budget discussions. They meet with all departments and reviewed their budgets. The oil slowdown has caused the commissioners to look closely at the budget requests. It was suggested the departments look at cutting 5% from their budgets and then discuss it again at the next commissioners meeting.

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