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Unintended consequences

Fort Dodge Realtors ask supervisors for amendment

December 29, 2010
By LINDSEY MUTCHLER Messenger staff writer

Home sales on some acreages are running into problems in Webster County as lenders cite concern over a new zoning ordinance enacted in 2009.

The ordinance in question relates to nonconforming structures on less than 2 acres of land in areas zoned transitional agriculture. If a home built on such a property is damaged more than 60 percent it cannot be rebuilt, according to information from Webster County Planning and Zoning Administrator Sheilah Lizer.

Rick Peters, with the Fort Dodge Board of Realtors, said he couldn't quote a specific number of acreages affected by the ordinance, but that in the last month, it has resulted in the loss of home acreage sales in the area.

Article Video

Supervisiors meeting Dec. 28, 2010

"It's been an issue in two sales in the past month and a half," said Cary Clark, a member of the Fort Dodge Board of Realtors and a Realtor with RE/MAX of Fort Dodge. "An appraiser has to make a note of the fact that the house is a nonconforming structure when appraising property in the county. When a lender sees that, they won't lend, and that's the problem."

It's the potential for a problem - such as a house fire - that has lenders spooked, said Troy Anderson, president of the Fort Dodge Board of Realtors.

As lenders continue to keep purse strings tight, the institutions are unwilling to lend money when there's no guarantee a homeowner can rebuild the structure in the event the home is damaged.

Article Photos

Rick Peters speaks Tuesday morning on behalf of the Fort Dodge Board of Realtors to the Webster County Board of Supervisors about rural zoning issues.

Representatives of the Fort Dodge Board of Realtors spoke with the Webster County Board of Supervisors during its Tuesday meeting and asked the board to consider amending the ordinance.

"We think there's a little bit of a misreading about the ordinance, and we feel some clarification needs to be made," Anderson said. "Perhaps existing acreages could be grandfathered in so to speak, so they can automatically rebuild in order for us to clarify this rule with appraisers and lenders."

Lizer said this issue is an unintended consequence of the new Webster County Zoning Ordinance that was approved by the Webster County Board of Supervisors and the Webster County Board of Adjustment in 2009.

"The intent is that nonconforming structures can remain, but are not encouraged to expand," Lizer said.

However, few people want to purchase a home if they have no guarantee they can rebuild in the event of a fire, according to some area Realtors.

"Now that a person wants to sell an acreage we need to talk about the buyer's ability to rebuild the home if it's destroyed, or their lack of ability to do so," said Peters. "Buyers are hesitant to buy, and lenders are probably hesitant loan as well. There are also insurance implications. If one can't rebuild one's home and has to move, that opens another can of worms."

In order to amend the ordinance, the Board of Realtors or the Board of Supervisors must petition the Webster County Board of Adjustment for the amendment.

Supervisors Bob Singer and Keith Dencklau said they will look into the issue and then touch base with the Realtors within the next couple of weeks.

Clark told the board that anybody with property under 2 acres is unable to close the sale unless it's a cash deal because a lender will not lend money on a property that has no guarantee it'll be rebuilt.

"We just want to make that clear," Clark said.

Contact Lindsey Mutchler at (515) 573-2141 or



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