Variance granted for home construction

NEW ULM – By a 2-1 vote with Commissioner Leo Wilfahrt dissenting Wednesday, the Brown County Board of Adjustment approved a variance application Wednesday from Jeffrey and Julie Menage on property overlooking the Big Cottonwood River in Burnstown Township.

The application was made to allow a reduction in the buildable area from the required minimum of 200×200 feet to 143×165 feet for the purpose of splitting an existing site into two parcels to accommodate new home construction in the A-1 Agricultural/Shoreland Protection Zoning District.

At the meeting, Jeff Menage said he bought land in 2007 and built a garage with two bays and a living area in 2008. He moved to the site and now plans to build a home in the property.

“My banker said the appraiser couldn’t find comparable lots with two structures so he recommended I split the lot so the property is separate from the other site so I can secure financing. I’ll have to refinance,” Menage said.

He presented the board copies of protective covenants for Pleasant View First Subdivision in Burnstown Township. Covenants include no lots shall be subdivided for resale, structures cannot exceed 2 1/2 stories in height, dwelling houses must have at least 2,400 square feet of total enclosed space, 1,200 square feet of which must be living space (excluding garage space) above grade, garages attached to the dwelling and/or separate shall not exceed four stalls and any construction must be new and not made of metal.

Menage said he has no intention of subdividing lots and selling them and that the variance request was made only to secure bank financing.

“Bank rules are more stringent than they used to be,” Menage said. “I’ve been around and around with the bank and there is no other way.”

Wilfahrt recommended redrawing property lines and platting one of the two lots as not suitable for building because it would not meet the 200×200 feet requirement. He later recommended tabling the issue for a month.

Commissioner Mike Tomschin made the first motion to approve the variance with covenant guidelines. Board Chairman Tom Hirsch seconded the motion as long as Burnstown Township Board concerns were addressed.

In a Jan. 14, 2013 email from Burnstown Township Board Chairman Ken Moe to the Brown County Planning & Zoning Office, following a township meeting earlier in the evening, the zoning board was asked to consider the current lot.

“When you look at the amount of usable land in the flood plain and river bluff, this lot of 10.3 acres appears to only have three acres build-able. Dividing it as shown leaves only one-half acre that could be used for buildings on the north portion. We do not feel this is a useable size for a rural lot.

“Division of the lot as plotted may set a precedent for small lots in rural areas. Would this be a wise decision for the zoning board or township?

“The township board would not recommend this lot be divided as shown. In our opinion, it does not appear to form two usable lots.”

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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