Ordinance approved

by April Scheinoha

    The Pennington County Board approved a buffer law ordinance at its meeting Tuesday, Dec. 12.
    Minnesota’s buffer law calls for all navigable waterways to have buffers of some sort of perennial vegetation that is a minimum of 30 feet wide and an average of 50 feet wide. Then, on Nov. 1, 2018, landowners with property that borders a legal drainage system must have buffers planted that are a minimum of 16.5 feet in width. There are no restrictions on mowing or maintaining the buffers.
    Approved alternative practices may be used. Those practices include using cover crops, conservation tillage, contour strip-cropping and more.
    The Pennington Soil and Water Conservation District will inspect parcels every three years to ensure compliance. Pennington SWCD Manager Bryan Malone said the SWCD will notify a landowner if the property is out of compliance and provide the landowner with options to rectify the situation. If the landowner refuses to comply, Assistant County Engineer Mike Stennes would then issue a corrective action notice. It would list the corrective actions, timeline and a statement regarding the possibility of criminal, civil or administrative penalties.
    At any point during that process, the landowner would be able to provide documentation of compliance. After receiving the corrective action notice, the landowner may supply information supporting a request to modify the corrective action or timeline. The landowner also has the right to appeal within 30 days of receiving the corrective action notice. A Technical Evaluation Panel would consider appeals. The panel would then issue a recommendation to the County Board of Adjustment, which would issue a decision.
    If the landowner fails to comply with the corrective action notice, the county may pursue the matter criminally and/or through an administrative penalty order. If the matter were pursued criminally, the landowner would be charged with a misdemeanor. The severity of the noncompliance, the intentional nature of noncompliance, and the frequency of noncompliance may be considered in that situation.
    As part of an administrative penalty order, a landowner would be assessed nothing for the first 11 months after issuance of the notice. After that time, the assessment would be $200 per parcel for the first six months and $500 per parcel per month thereafter. If there were a repeat violation, the amount would be $200 per parcel per day for six months after the notice and $500 per parcel per day thereafter.
    Commissioners approved a memorandum of agreement with the Pennington SWCD for enforcement of the buffer law. The SWCD will initially receive 75 percent of the allotted funds, estimated at $90,000, for that purpose. It will receive an additional 15 percent if the Pennington County Attorney’s Office hasn’t utilized the funding for enforcement proceedings.
    Commissioners approved the updated shoreland management ordinance. The ordinance was updated to be consistent with the buffer law ordinance.
    County Board held a Truth in Taxation hearing. Commissioners are planning to levy $9,989,103 in property taxes. It is projected that the county will receive $807,004 in County Program Aid in 2018. As a result, the combined property tax levy is expected to increase 4.88 percent over 2017.
    Commissioners will consider the property tax levy and county budget at their next meeting Wednesday, Dec. 27.
    County Board approved an agreement with the Teamsters union representing sheriff’s deputies, corrections officers and dispatchers. As part of the agreement, the union will receive a 3 percent increase in 2018, a 2.25 percent increase in 2019 and a 2.75 percent increase in 2020.
    Commissioners approved a resolution supporting the maintenance of local license bureaus. The resolution noted the multiple shortcomings of the state’s new Minnesota Licensing and Registration System. It further referred to how those shortcomings have “severely strained normal deputy registrar operations with longer processing times that greatly limit their typical volume of daily business.” The resolution also noted that the conversion led deputy registrar offices to invest in additional staff, office equipment and more space. Noting that the filing fee revenue no longer covers the cost of operating the deputy registrar offices, the resolution asks the Legislature and governor for proper compensation for deputy registrars.
    County Board approved a plat for Ness’ Third Addition. William and Henrietta Ness plan to subdivide a 40.71-acre parcel into five parcels along the Red Lake River in Section 35 of North Township. The parcel is located west of Johnson Drive. North Township and the city of Thief River Falls have already approved the plat. The city has the authority to review subdivisions within a two-mile radius of the city,
    Commissioners approved holding a public hearing related to requested residential property tax abatements Tuesday, Jan. 23 at 5:30 p.m. at the Pennington County Courthouse.
    The three-year program provides a tax abatement for new single-family homes. The cost of home construction can’t exceed $160,000 for homes built before June 2015 or $200,000 for homes built after that time. The tax abatement only applies for the first owner occupying the home.
    The next meeting of the Pennington County Board is scheduled Wednesday, Dec. 27 at 10 a.m. at the Pennington County Courthouse. The meeting date and time were changed due to the holiday.