The Ward County Planning Commission wrestled with a variance application to build in the flood plain at its regularly scheduled meeting Thursday night.
Carson Hughes submitted a variance application to build a home in New Prairie Township, which is in the area of the old Valley Vegetables business southeast of Minot. Hughes began building in June or July and said he wasn't aware of the flood plain building moratorium in Ward County, which doesn't end until February of next year. He also had not applied for a building permit until recently.
Hughes said he bought the property from his father last fall and started planning his new home at that time. He said quite a few trees have been planted on the property and he has already invested around $32,000 in the construction of the home.
Mike Vendsel, director of tax equalization, said there have been ongoing issues with that area for some time, noting Hughes' brother built his home there in the past few years without a building or sewer permit. A mobile home is also on the site, which Hughes said a family friend is living in. The deed for the land also has not been changed to Carson Hughes' name as of yet, and is still in his father's name.
"The thing is with the building permit, I guess I'm pretty much pleading ignorance because I didn't know at what point I needed the building permit. And as far as the deed goes, same deal," Hughes said. "I had fully planned on coming in to get the building permit. I figured I had to have the structure started so that they could inspect it at that point."
After quite a bit of discussion, the commission ultimately decided that ignorance of the law is no excuse. Commissioner Norman Livingston noted several months ago they granted a variance for a person who was just up against the flood plain, but said Hughes' situation is different as he is right in the middle of it.
"As much as I hate to say it, I would make a motion that this application for a variance be denied," Livingston said. "And if it ever comes back, sir, we need plats, we need the proper procedures."
"I guess I would just like to say I struggle with this. I know you've made the investment in time and money, but on the other hand, we have a moratorium that I think everyone in the county is aware of," said commissioner Jack Nybakken. "And to go ahead and proceed without getting a building permit, I just think that when somebody basically either ignores the laws or chooses to say they had no clue, I think there has to be a consequence."
The motion to deny the request was seconded and voted upon, passing 6-1. Commissioner David Kopp was the lone dissenting vote, noting he voted that way because of the considerable amount Hughes already had invested in the property and the hardship he would be placed under.
The application will now go before the Ward County Commission for final consideration. If it is denied, Hughes would have to halt construction on his home until the building moratorium expires.