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Eureka Township may change density rules

When Eureka Township residents go to their annual meeting Tuesday, they'll get an update on a proposed housing density ordinance change that would give landowners more flexibility with their housing rights.

A group called the Transfer Task Force has been working on a proposed change to the township's density zoning requirements. The proposal would allow landowners to buy, sell, trade, or gift their housing rights to another landowner within the township.

The idea of transferring house rights goes back as far as 15 years, Transfer Task Force chairman Jeff Otto said. However, it wasn't until last year's annual meeting that residents really started to question whether Eureka should change its density requirements.

Like many townships, Eureka has a zoning density of one house per quarter-quarter -- about 40 acres.

Eureka's current zoning laws allow for one housing unit to be built on each 40-acre quarter-quarter, Otto said, but not all are suitable for housing construction. Some quarter-quarters are used for agricultural production, while other areas may fall within areas that are protected natural resources.

In 1990, Eureka adopted a clustering feature, which allowed a property owner with, for example, a 160-acre property to "cluster" up to four homes on one quarter-quarter of the section -- each house representing one for each of the 40 acres within that 160-acre property.

"The basic idea behind this program was the idea of allowing a way to bring housing development away from agricultural areas," Otto said. "It's a way of trying to save ag land and provide the opportunity for housing on that land. Now a landowner can only transfer (housing rights) within his own land, contiguously, and it doesn't go to anyone else."

But that's what the Transfer Task Force is looking at right now -- a potential ordinance that would allow landowners to transfer, sell or trade the housing rights for some of the property they own.

"It could mean grown children being able to move close to their elderly parents, so their elderly parents can continue to live on their property and don't have to leave their homes. They might be in a situation where they want to be able to have their children build next to them, but they already have some housing there. They could ... go acquire a housing right from somebody else in the township and bring it to their property to allow that house to be developed," Otto said.

There are also natural resources like the Vermillion River and Chub Lake that have to be taken into account, so the task force is seeking comments from local, county and state agencies first. And, there are a number of properties that fall under a grandfather clause from several decades ago that pertains to the size of some lots.

"Part of the challenge in formulating the program is to make sure we're not bypassing any of the existing regulations," Otto said.

The Transfer Task Force plans to bring an update to Monday's Eureka Board of Supervisors meeting, and then bring another report to the annual meeting on Tuesday. The annual meeting is scheduled to begin at 8:15 p.m., after the township elections.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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