The Lake County Planning Commission took the first exploratory steps on Wednesday morning to change county ordinances that prohibit retail businesses outside city limits.

To open a discussion intended to determine whether commission members had any interest in making this change, Planning and Zoning Officer Mandi Anderson mentioned three businesses that have indicated interest in expanding services by including retail sales. Gaylen Backus would like to open a retail store when he expands Gaylen's Popcorn with a new facility along SD-34.

"It's an ag business. He would like to be able to sell, on the side, some South Dakota products," Anderson said, noting that it would probably attract lake traffic.

Matt Jeratowski would like to sell parts at Asphalt Pros, located on SD-34 west of Madison. Vicki Johns would like to include a gift shop when she opens Cows-N-Canoes Mercantile west of Madison on SD-34, across from Prairie Village. Anderson said Johns would also like to rent canoes and bikes, as well as carry items that campers might need at the Steam Threshing Jamboree.

Currently, the commercial/industrial district includes the possibility of operating a wide range of businesses, including implement sales and service, truck terminals and freight warehouses, ag-related sales and storage businesses, welding and machine shops, livestock sales, wholesale distributing companies, restaurants, motels and even adult-use businesses.

However, retail sales are not permitted.

The agricultural district includes an extensive list of 40 business uses for which a conditional-use permit could be granted. The list includes a golf course, game lodge, bed and breakfast home, commercial stables, veterinary clinics, commercial public entertainment enterprises, livestock sales barns, kennels, horticultural services, repair shops, agricultural processing facilities and even seasonal retail stands utilizing a permanent structure.

However, retail sales are not allowed.

Anderson recommended commission members consider allowing retail in commercial/industrial districts.

"It's most likely going to fit better in that type of district," she said.

Her concern was that if retail were allowed in an ag district, "anyone could come in and ask for conditional use for anything." Allowing retail in commercial/industrial areas only would require the party to go through a rezoning process which would ensure they met established restrictions.

Anderson explained this would keep retail businesses on or near paved highways, and commissioners wouldn't be considering an application to put a car lot "four miles down a township road."

"Our ordinance is set up right now to create a better fit with commercial," she said.

If the commission were to consider adding retail to the ag district, an entirely new section would have to be written for the existing ordinance.

In response to a question, Anderson explained that a business can change ownership without going through a permitting process if the use doesn't change. However, if the use changes, the business must be in a district which allows that use or must be rezoned.

If retail were allowed in the commercial/industrial district, commissioners would still look at applications on a case-by-case basis, according to Anderson. She said they could consider factors such as whether there was adequate parking space and whether the business was a good fit for the area.

Dale Thompson asked about seasonal retail stands. Anderson explained the seller does not have to raise the produce themselves.

The requirements are different than for ag product processing facilities, which require the business to process the item being sold. At present, this is the type of facility Backus has for his enterprise. He cannot expand it to sell South Dakota-made products.

Anderson said he could sell wine if he had his own vineyard or coffee if he purchased local beans, then roasted and ground them. She said the rules could be bent "a little bit" if a different product was produced with purchased raw materials. However, purchasing wholesale and selling retail is not allowed.

Thompson clarified the purpose of the discussion, asking, "You want to see if we're interested in what Gaylen wants to do?"

Anderson affirmed that, saying, "What Gaylen wants to do, what Vicki wants to do. If they have a business and would like to have a side business, they should at least have an opportunity to come forward and ask."

Backus, who attended the meeting, addressed what is understood to be the reason retail was initially excluded from Lake County ordinances -- the desire to prevent big-box stores from moving into the area. He suggested placing a restriction in the ordinance, limiting the distance major stockholders could live from the business.

Anderson noted that other counties have placed restrictions on the number of employees a business could employ. She said that if Lake County chose that option, they might want to limit that restriction to retail businesses.

"I would hate to see it that way," Backus said. "We have eight employees in our double garage and would like to expand."

During the course of the discussion, commissioners didn't have any objections, so they planned a course of action to move forward on Anderson's recommendation. First District Association of Local Governments will be contacted for recommendations and assistance in revising the ordinance.

First District will also be asked to make a presentation at a public meeting. Commissioners felt it was important to hold a public meeting to hear from county residents. Anderson agreed, saying it would enable commissioners to make the best possible decision.

She explained the process, should commissioners feel a change to the ordinance was warranted.

"We write it up and you submit it to County Commission for approval," she said.

Commissioners also approved making changes to the ordinances as they apply to garages and other accessory buildings in Lake Park districts. Anderson explained they were getting so many conditional-use permits that it was probably wise to change the restrictions.

Following a discussion, the decision was made to have different restrictions for attached and unattached garages in LP-1 and LP-2 districts. Attached garages will need to conform to the design of the house. Unattached garages and accessory buildings can be up to 2,000 square feet with maximum sidewalls of 16 feet.

In LP-3, which only permits oversized storage facilities, the structures can be up to 6,000 square feet with 16-foot sidewalls.

The changes will not go into effect until the ordinances are approved by the Lake County Commission after being formally revised and approved by the Planning Commission.