County adopts own Buffer Ordinance

After extensive study and inclusion of local enforcement guidelines, Lyon County has adopted its own “Buffer Ordinance”.

The state set guidelines for legislation to govern buffers and gave counties the authority to refine the ordinance and adopt and operate the ordinance in accordance with the guidelines provided by the state of Minnesota.

“This is result of the legislation to adopt a Buffer Law,” said Lyon County Zoning Director John Biren. As a result, Lyon County Zoning is now the official source of buffer operations within the county.

A public hearing was held Tuesday before the ordinance was approved and the county board voted 3-2 to approve the ordinance. The Buffer Ordinance identifies the width of buffer areas required on public waters and on public ditches.

The state law also specifies how to measure the buffer width and explains the uses allowed within the buffer area. Biren told the board the, “Ordinance is before you, and with the state guidelines … I have to complement our staff on where we are at today.”

The new ordinance also explains the exceptions to the buffer requirements and alternative practices.

“The county will handle complaints, non-compliance issues and enforcement,” said Biren.

He indicated when non-compliance happens, “We will mail notices, then we will have a choice of criminal action.”

But he was quick to say the county would not start by issuing notices of non-compliance. First, the county will discuss the issues with the landowners who are in non-compliance.

“The land owners need to know when they’re in non-compliance,” said Commissioner Rick Anderson.

“The land owners are still the ones under the law who have been fighting us for a long time and they need to know (the rules of the ordinance).”

“The owner of the land is the guy who is paying the taxes,” said Commissioner Gary Crowley.

“If you have land, you’ve got to know how to manage it,” he said. As a result, he indicated he stood by the zoning board’s guidelines for handling non-compliance.

“I don’t want to get in a place where we have to have an attorney defend us,” said Commissioner Charlie Sanow and he indicated the new ordinance, “Gives us a little more authority.” He added, “I don’t want this to end up in court.”

A discussion on who would be prosecuted if the laws were not in compliance. “If there is a fine, who is going to pay the fine? It would be the land owners,” said Commissioner Crowley.

“The primary person in charge (of the land) is the person who pays taxes,” said Commission Chairman Paul Graupmann.

The refined Lyon County ordinance is intended to protect state water resources from erosion and runoff pollution; stabilize soils, shores and banks and protect riparian corridors.

The new ordinance includes agriculture standards and animal feedlots standards that will be required of county property owners and includes guidelines for planting perennial vegetation, operation of drainage ditches and implementation of vegetated ditch buffer strips and side inlet controls.

(A complete copy of the Lyon County Buffer Ordinance is available on the Lyon County Website and will be printed in county publications).

Commissioner Gary Crowley

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