Havre Daily News
A Havre couple is “still discussing” whether to tear down their new storage building - one that isn't yet completed - or start gathering signatures from their neighbors.
Those are the two options given to Mike and Sheila Barthel by the Havre-Hill County Zoning Board last week. The problem: The Havre police chief and his wife are building a 1,680-square-foot storage building on a county right of way on the west side of Airport Road.
In a letter sent last Monday, zoning board chair Gaynelle Durward presented the board's two options: Either collect neighbors' signatures and petition the Hill County Commission to abandon the right of way, or start the demolition.
Durward said the Barthels' first problem was not obtaining a zoning permit. Barthel said he didn't know one was needed for projects outside the city limits.
“They didn't get a permit to build,” Durward said. “Then we try to check into it and make sure it's done right.”
The Barthels were required to obtain a zoning permit because they live within the city-county planning area. Hill County planner Clay Vincent said such areas were mandated by the state Legislature almost three decades ago in order to create a “buffer zone” of planned development surrounding Montana cities.
Barthel said he simply didn't know that he was within the planning area. Vincent said he still sees some people who are unaware of the zoning requirements and the boundaries of the planning area.
He said structures in the area must be located at least 30 feet back from the right of way.
The Barthels are constructing their building 12 feet back from their property line, and most of the structure sits in the county's right of way, Vincent said. Barthel said his building is 60 feet from the centerline of the roadway.
“This just wasn't a good place for this building,” Durward said. “We had to do something about it.” The right of way was created in the 1920s or the 1930s, and it doesn't quite match the path of Airport Road, which is located a little farther east, Vincent said.
“There's no real reason to have it in here,” Vincent said. “It does affect a lot of properties.”
The easement also covers portions of property on either side of the Barthels' land.
Vincent added that he has no say in the issue, and any petition for abandonment of the right of way will be the decision of county commissioners.
Barthel said part of the problem is a surveying issue.
“It's just really confusing out there,” he said. “The main reason I'm really looking into this is so that I have clear title in the event that I ever sold the property.”
Barthel said his structure is in line with other buildings on adjacent properties, and said he wasn't aware of the setback requirement.
Vincent said the other structures predate the creation of the planning area.
He said he occasionally sees landowners fail to get the proper permit because, like the Barthels, they're not aware of the planning area, which extends about seven miles west of Havre to the Red Barn, about five miles east to the old rest stop next to Pork Chop Hill, north to 31st Street North, and about a mile south of Bullhook Dike. Landowners outside the planning area do not have to meet zoning requirements, Vincent said.
“I would say at least one a year” is unaware of the requirement, Vincent said.