Before enforcement steps are taken at one area campground, county officials will work on updating zoning ordinances in general.

At Monday's Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors' meeting, the Board tabled a decision on whether or not to proceed with the enforcement of the county zoning ordinance as it applies to Chimney Rock Campground in rural Bluffton.

"Three cabins have been constructed without construction compliance certificates (building permits)," County Zoning Administrator Tony Phillips explained to the Board.

He explained because the cabins are built on A-1 agricultural land, permits cannot be issued on these (commercial) cabins.

"The required action is a notice issued to the land owner that the structures shall be removed. Does the Board wish to proceed in the enforcement of the zoning ordinance on this item?" asked Phillips.

The history

The discussion came following the denial of a recent request by Chimney Rock Owner Deb Keefe to rezone the property directly under three rental cabins from A-1 agricultural to C-1 commercial. Keefe, whose campground currently exists as a "legal nonconforming use" of A-1 agricultural, revised a previous zoning request after the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended denial.

The Supervisors' decision to not rezone the property followed a public hearing during which nearby landowners expressed concerns regarding the potential for increased noise and traffic in the area.


The enforcement discussion came following a motion by the Board Monday authorizing Phillips to investigate the possibility of hiring a consultant to help revamp the county's zoning ordinance.

Supervisor Mark Kuhn said he was not interested in any type of enforcement at this time.

"It seems we're finding we have some inadequacies in zoning," said Kuhn.

Board Member Dennis Karlsbroten asked Keefe if the cabins are portable. She responded that one of the cabins is portable and the other two are on pedestals that could be moved.

When Board Chair John Logsdon asked Phillips whether the ordinance was against having the cabins there physically, or against Keefe renting out the cabins, Phillips replied, "Both."

"1. They have been built without permits. Having them there is not legal. 2.That use is not allowed there. Having them is not legal by ordinance and using them is not legal by ordinance," said Phillips.

Board members asked whether or not it would be legal for Keefe to keep the cabins if she was using them for livestock.

"If she was farming," replied Phillips, to which Keefe replied she does farm 23 acres of corn and eight acres of hay.

Supervisor Floyd Ashbacher asked if the county had ever been in this situation before. Phillips responded it had. That situation included a new home near Freeport where the appropriate setback was not followed during construction.

Supervisor Dean Thompson said he wasn't in favor of taking action at this time, and Karlsbroten added he is "just glad we're going to have someone review our zoning ordinance."

"So if we're not going to enforce the zoning ordinance on this item, are we going to allow the use of the cabins?" asked Phillips.

"That's crux of it," answered Thompson.

"What does the zoning board say?" asked Karlsbroten.

"They have nothing to do with this decision. It's an enforcement decision," said Phillips.

Karlsbroten next conjectured the cabins are "really no different than a travel trailer."

"That's not exactly true," said Phillips.

"It's not exactly true, but it's more true than untrue," said Karlsbroten, to which Phillips disagreed.

"We've got three choices: we can enforce it, not enforce it or table it," said Logsdon.

Thompson next made the motion to table the issue, which was seconded by Karlsbroten.