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Shoreland regulation changes (new law)

Published (5/29/2009)
By Nick Busse
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An issue that has spawned decades’ worth of disputes among property owners, local governments and the Department of Natural Resources might finally be resolved.

A new law is designed to address the longstanding problem of DNR shoreland regulations preventing owners of property on legal nonconforming lots from selling or otherwise using their land as they see fit. Rep. Mike Nelson (DFL-Brooklyn Park) and Sen. Ann Rest (DFL-New Hope) are the sponsors.

Local governments are responsible for implementing DNR shoreland management standards designed to protect the water quality of lakes and other environmental factors. These rules can negatively impact owners of properties that were legally built but that no longer conform to current shoreland regulations.

The new law establishes shoreland rules based on a 2008 compromise reached by a working group comprised of DNR officials, local governments, realtors and others.

Contiguous nonconforming lots under common ownership can be sold or purchased individually, as long as each had a habitable residential dwelling when it came under common ownership, under the law. This addresses a problem of owners of two adjacent properties being prevented from selling one of them.

A provision in the law addresses problems faced when buildings on nonconforming shoreline lots are damaged to the extent of more than 50 percent of their market value. If the lot has less than 50 percent of the required setback from water, the law states that the setback may be increased if reasonable and practicable conditions may be placed on the zoning or building permit to mitigate impacts on the adjacent property or water body.

Other provisions in the law include:

• allowing building on nonconforming lots without variances from lot size requirements, under certain conditions;

• specifying that lots that meet certain requirements are treated as separate parcels of land even if they are under common ownership; and

• requiring property owners to address water and environmental issues when applying for a variance, zoning or building permit.

The law is effective May 22, 2009.


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