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Davison commission OKs rural homestead for couple

An Ethan couple will be able to build their house in rural Davison County, thanks to a change of course by the county commission Tuesday. The commissioners, meeting as the county board of adjustment, unanimously approved a variance request to create a lot of 3.9 acres for Aaron and Mandy Gerlach. That was a week after the county’s Planning and Zoning commission unanimously voted against the request, 5-0.

The lot, which would would be about a half-mile west of State Highway 37 on 265th Street, was approved because the Gerlachs were able to show unnecessary hardship.

“The four acres we want to purchase is costly enough, let alone buying 25 acres,” Mandy Gerlach said. “We wouldn’t be able to pay for that.”

Normally, the minimum lot size for a single-family home in an ag-zoned district is 25 acres. The lot size requirement can be waived if a financing agency requires a smaller lot size for the house, the house is a second dwelling on an existing farmstead or if the building site is gifted from the owner to family.

She said they didn’t have the means or the intent to own or farm 25 acres of land with the home, and the current owner of the land, Donald Garvis, doesn’t want to sell land that won’t get used.

Gerlach said the same street has other parcels of land under 10 acres that house homesteads.

“I don’t feel that we would change the character of that area,” she said. “The only thing that would change is the current junkpile that is visible from the road that would be gone.”

Commissioner Denny Kiner said the current policy is a catch 22, where the 25-acre rule is too much, but many financial institutions won’t lend to a homestead project of more than 10 acres.

Local resident Mike Tuttle said a rule change should be examined, something county planning and zoning administrator Jeff Bathke said he’s in the process of considering.

Members of the public also noted the county would benefit from four acres going from ag classification to non-ag, and the taxes that would be assessed against the property. No formal opposition had been posed against the variance permit from neighboring property owners.

Mandy Gerlach said she felt members of the planning committee indicated they didn’t think Gerlachs were ready to live in the country.

“I disagree with that,” she said. “We’ve lived in rural South Dakota our whole lives.”

Other business:

During their regular meeting Tuesday, the commission:

• Acknowledged the retirement of corrections department Sgt. Carol Radel, effective June 6.

• Approved a sick leave donation request for jail employee Kim Beltran during her maternity leave.

• Approved the termination of an unidentifi ed Davison County jail employee, effective May 6. The employee was terminated following a pattern of attendance problems and poor job performance, according to corrections administrator Don Radel.

• Davison County Auditor Susan Kiepke said there will not be a forum prior to the June primary election. She said the Mitchell Area Governmental Affairs Committee was not able to agree on a time for all of the invited candidates to meet, and was not able to book space at Mitchell Technical Institute for a potential debate.

• Approved bills, timesheets and previous meeting’s minutes.