Houston County commissioners voted unanimously to add interim use permits (IUPs) to the county's land use ordinance on Sept. 17.

"It's just another permit opportunity for folks," Zoning Administrator Bob Scanlan told the board. "It's a little bit different from your standard zoning permit or your conditional use permit. Conditional use permits stay with the land. They're perpetual, recorded with the property... With an interim use permit there's a big difference. The process is the same, but an ending date has been specified."

That expiration could be a predetermined date, or an event such as the sale of a property.

The new section to the ordinance (no. 7) is based on language copied from Sherburne County, Scanlan said. In addition, section 13 (on agricultural protection districts) will have interim uses added, with a specific subdivision on "non-commercial family cabins."

The Frydenlund Family Trust of Black Hammer Township applied to have the ordinance amended in order to allow the issuance of IUPs. Those permits could bring a set of cabins owned by the trust into compliance with county zoning standards.

Members of the Frydenlund family thanked commissioners after the vote, which had to be unanimous. That's because amending the land use ordinance requires a four-fifths vote, and the fifth commissioner (Chairman Justin Zmyewski) was not present.

The trust will now need to make a permit application. The subdivision under interim uses states:

"These cabins are designed and constructed as short term living quarters for one or more persons and are not to be used as a permanent dwelling. Such cabins shall not be leased, rented, bartered or sold to a third party and shall only be used by the persons or entity listed on the interim use permit and their family."

It was not the first time the issue of IUPs has come before county commissioners. On Dec. 30, 2009, dozens of residents attended a county board meeting, loudly denouncing the addition of more permits to the land use plan. Commissioners voted the measure down on that date, and denied an application the following April that would have required the same amendment.

Voting policy changed

Citing a policy recommendation from the Association of Minnesota Counties, the board voted to change their policy on the office of chairman. Commissioner Teresa Walter suggested that the chairman be allowed to participate in debate, make motions, and vote on all matters instead of simply serving as a tiebreaker.

"The chairman has an area (district) to represent," Commissioner Steve Schuldt noted. Commissioners Dan Kjome and Judy Storlie agreed. A Storlie motion to change the policy was seconded by Schuldt, and passed by unanimous vote.

Agreement with Wabasha County signed

Commissioners signed a professional services agreement with Wabasha County. The document calls for Wabasha County Human Services Director Terry Smith to "provide an independent report (on) allegations of misconduct by a Houston (County) employee and provide his independent findings and recommendations to Houston County as to what measures, if any, should be taken..."

The agreement compensates Wabasha County $1, but also allows up to $150 in reimbursement for approved travel and subsistence expenses.

Hidden Bluffs Campground permit approved

The board signed off on efforts to expedite a permit that will allow Hidden Bluffs Campground in Black Hammer Township to clean up rubble and make repairs to two sections of dike which were damaged during June flooding. Scanlan said that the dike stands between a camping area and Riceford Creek. The motion requires campground owners to consult with MNDNR and Root River Soil and Water Conservation District officials before proceeding with repairs.

Not enough garbage

Environmental Services Director Rick Frank told commissioners that they might need to set aside funds to meet an annual payment of $19,204 to La Crosse County's solid waste department. In the past, a credit of $5 per ton delivered to the incinerator (which generates and sells electrical power) has been enough to offset the charge, which consists of 20 annual payments. Those monies represent Houston County's partnership in environmental upgrades at the French Island facility.

Frank said a large amount of credit was built up following 2007 and 2008 flood events, but that amount has since dwindled to $507. The next payment would be due in January of 2014.

Public Health Reports on Emergency Preparedness

Public Health Director Deb Rock appeared with health educator Heather Myhre, briefing the board on the county's public health emergency preparedness plan. Myhre stated that the program is one of the six primary responsibilities of the department, and includes plans to respond to disaster situations, both natural and manmade.

On a related note, commissioners voted to approve a "mass dispensing site agreement" with the Caledonia School District. The pact allows the county to set up clinics at the school for "disease prevention and control."