On Tuesday morning, Lake County commissioners were once again confronted with the challenge of determining whether a local business could expand operations without adversely affecting a neighboring landowner.
Last time, when Lee Yager d.b.a. The Gravel Pit sought to mine gravel to the east of an existing gravel pit on 457th Avenue north of SD-34, Janet Weber successfully argued it would adversely affect her ability to board horses. This time, when Yager sought to expand to the north of the original pit, commissioners were unable to see how the expansion would affect Weber and approved a conditional use permit.
Donna Yager, speaking on behalf of The Gravel Pit, not only presented information about the proposed expansion, but also described what the company considers to be on-going harassment by Weber in an attempt to shut down their operation. Yager said Weber has filed complaints about whether they've planted trees, about their fencing, and about the spoils pile.
"To reclaim the pit, we need that dirt," Yager said, describing the need for the spoils pile after addressing the other complaints.
"We're doing everything legally asked of us to run the business," she continued. "Give us a couple years and we'll be done."
Yager noted the company supports nine families and said the proposed expansion does not abut the Weber property and would come within 1,000 feet of Weber's property line. The Lake County Commission acting as the Board of Adjustment had previously determined 1,000 feet would provide an adequate buffer for Weber's use of her property.
"Janet is fighting us with false accusations," Yager stated, indicating Weber was acting out of spite. "The facts are the facts. We're doing everything you guys asked."
Sioux Falls attorney Mitch Peterson presented the case for Weber's opposition to the expansion. He disputed Weber's actions were personal and presented several arguments against the expansion.
Peterson said the expansion constituted a hazard to public safety, citing the quality of the fencing and gates. This was not supported by the information packet provided by planning and zoning officer Mandi Anderson, which included a letter from County Highway Superintendent Nels Nelson, stating he was satisfied with the safety precautions taken to ensure highway safety when entering and exiting the mine.
Peterson said state law requires a distance of 1,000 feet from any residence in which the owners do not live, and noted the proposed expansion would be closer than 1,000 feet to a building site owned by the Yagers but rented by another party.
"I don't think there is authority to grant this permit," he stated.
He also questioned whether another permit should be granted when the Yagers had not honored the limitations established with the previous one. He said the Yagers had removed topsoil from the area they were not allowed to mine, and that constituted mining.
Peterson also indicated the permit should not be approved because the Yagers operated outside 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. office hours. He said they sometimes worked until 8 p.m.
Yager responded by noting again that the area identified for expansion did not abut Weber's property. She noted that removing topsoil does not constitute mining and also suggested Weber's assertion regarding the house was not reasonable.
"Do they want a $300,000 house to set empty because they think so?" she asked rhetorically.
After hearing both sides, the commission approved the conditional use permit for The Gravel Pit. Bringing the matter to a vote, Commissioner Dennis Slaughter said, "I'm really struggling to see where that expansion has any bearing on her property."
In other business, the commission:
-- Approved renewing nine malt beverage and South Dakota farm wine licenses.
-- Approved transferring a narrow strip of land along Horizon Heights Road to the Horizon Heights Road District. The strip was acquired by the county through the tax deed process. The road district wanted the land to prevent an individual from controlling development of the property along Horizon Heights Road through which the strip runs.
-- Approved an application from the Lake County Relay for Life to use the 4-H grounds for a drive-thru luminaria ceremony on June 20. Commissioners delayed making decisions about other applications to see what the state decides regarding 4-H and Extension activities.
-- Approved a tax abatement for an individual who qualified for the assessment freeze for the elderly and disabled but did not apply prior to the deadline.
-- Approved the Bridge Improvement Grant (BIG) agreement with the state Department of Transportation for the replacement of the bridge for which funding was awarded.
-- Approved a utility occupancy application submitted by Sioux Valley Energy and an application for underground construction on county roads right-of-way from Rick Kasperson.
-- Approved a resolution to request funding through the Federal Aid Bridge Replacement Program to replace a bridge known locally as the Stemper Bridge on 456th Avenue north of SD-34. The projected cost is $790,000 with the local share being $142,595.
-- Approved hiring Michelle Uhrig to serve as the office manager for the highway department.
-- Approved six plats: resubdividing a lot into two lots in the Ethanol Plant Addition, resubdividing lot to add land and create two conforming lots in Nordstrom Addition, resubdividing a lot to add a small portion of land in B. Price Addition, subdividing the farmstead away from the adjacent farmland in Riedel's Addition, resubdividing lots into one large conforming lot in Reiner's Addition, subdividing five acres of land for potential future development in Stemper's 2nd Addition.
As the Board of Adjustment, commissioners:
-- Approved a conditional use permit for Galen and Shirley Backus to build an agricultural produce processing plant in Wentworth Township.
-- Appro ved a conditional use permit for Chester and Lisa Vanderwerf to build an oversized unattached garage in Wentworth Township.
-- Approved a conditional use permit for Brian and Laurie Johnson to build an oversized garage on property adjacent to lot with house in Lakeview Township.
-- Approved a variance for David and Lori Brende to replace a 1966 mobile home with a refurbished 1995 Type A mobile home in Chester Township.