Morgan County rejects request for homes

Feb 16 2012 - 11:21pm

MORGAN-- A down-on-his-luck resident was denied the chance to have two homes on his Morgan County lot.

In August 2010, the county granted resident Gary Snyder a conditional-use permit, allowing him to live in an existing home while building a new home on the same lot. Upon completion of the new dwelling, Snyder planned to convert the older residence into a detached accessory apartment.

Snyder proceeded in finalizing engineering plans, obtaining septic and water permits and obtaining financing for the new house. Finding financing proved difficult, but he obtained a building permit in July 2011.

As construction plans proceeded, several subcontractors voiced concerns with the design of the house, and Snyder considered design changes.

In the meantime, a one-year time limit Snyder had been given to commence construction had come and gone, and the council adopted a new code that would not allow the two structures on the same lot.

Acting as the county zoning administrator while attempting to fill the open position, the county council voted that Snyder's efforts to excavate land, draw up a design and hire contractors did not fit the definition of commencing construction.

"We have acted in good faith and intend to complete our home as soon as possible," Snyder told the council. "There is no definition of commencing construction.

Despite the support of neighbors and even a planning commissioner, the county council determined that Snyder failed to start construction of his new home within the one-year time frame specified.

Snyder would still be able to proceed with plans to build the new home. However, under a new code, he would have to demolish the older home once the new one is complete. Councilman Ned Mecham suggested that if the new home were built so that it shared a common wall with the old home, both structures could remain. The older structure would be considered an attached accessory apartment, which is allowable under the new code.

"The county is not stopping you from building your house at all," Mecham told Snyder.

"There needs to be some consistency here."

Mecham said he knows of four other county residents caught in similar situations who have had to demolish older homes.

"We're setting a pretty big precedent if we ignore timelines," Councilwoman Ronda Kippen said.

Most of the council agreed that Snyder's conditional-use permit is now invalid.

Councilman Lyle Nelson cast the one opposing vote.

"I don't think we should completely restrict a property owner from utilizing his property," Nelson said. "The beginning of construction is not specifically delineated in the code."

Councilman Robert Kilmer remained undecided on the issue, saying he wanted to be "careful not to overregulate use of private property."

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