Jeremy Koel wants to give you something else to look at as you head west on Highway 34: another junkyard. Koel went to the Lake County Commission Tuesday to request a variance, a conditional use permit, and an extended home occupation designation for his newly incorporated Dakota Prairie Logistics and Salvage, LLC. He and business partner Derek Uthe (who's been known to paint house with my brother Chris) plan to set up shop at Junius, right at the Highway 34/446th Ave. intersection, and "convert [...] discarded or damaged items into something that can be used again." One such repurposing mentioned on their Facebook page is home and lawn décor (yes, this junkyard has a Facebook page and uses the French accent aigu!).
In other words, they don't just want to pile a bunch of junk in Junius. They want to sell that junk for display in everybody's yards in Lake County. Sounds like great fun, fellas! Knock yourselves out! My dad will probably be one of your best customers.
Winfred entrepreneur Charles Scholl, who worked really hard a couple years ago to get 7.3% of Lake County voters to kill a proposed comprehensive county zoning ordinance, came to Tuesday's meeting to make sure the county enforces zoning rules on the Junius junkyard. Scholl is registered to do business as Lake Area Environmental Development Recycling and Repair, Inc. (good grief: doesn't anyone just say junkyard anymore?), so he may have an interest in watchdogging potential competitors.
Scholl cited state law requiring a thousand-foot setback for junkyards. MDL's Elisa Sand says Koel's 8.5 acres are a corner lot on the highway, so that thousand feet may be hard to come by. The property has shelterbelts, one of the excepting conditions for the 1,000-foot rule, but those shelterbelts aren't on the highway side of the lot.
But Zoning Officer Deb Reinicke dealt this blow to Scholl's challenges to Koel's request:
Zoning Officer Deb Reinicke said county officials do not enforce state regulations. The question before the commission was whether Koel's business meets county regulations [Elisa Sand, "Koel Seeks Salvage Business Permits," Madison Daily Leader, 2013.05.23].
Holy separation of powers! I appreciate a county official who observes strict limits on her powers, but can county officials really turn a blind eye to state law in zoning decisions? Can the county grant a variance to a property owner if the intended us of the property will violate state law? Perhaps States Attorney Chris Giles can correct me, but I notice that SDCL 11-2-53 says that when variance to county ordinances must "not be contrary to the public interest." Ensuring that businesses follow state law seems to be in the public interest. If Koel's business will violate the state law on junkyard setbacks, the county would seem to have an obligation to say, "No, you can't do that until you can comply with state law."
As a Dick Wiedenman liberal, I don't mind a guy using his own property to collect some junk and do other things that may offend the aesthetic sensitivities of a few of his neighbors (you should see the face my dad painted on his house to smile at the neighbors). But state law is state law, and I'm not sure the county can overlook that.