Clay County Planning and Zoning Annual Update

Karen Newman Midgarden

Matt Jacobson, Clay County Planning Director, presented the department’s annual update to the Clay County Board of Commissioners February 16.

Noting that permits were for projects located outside the city limits of the 11 incorporated communities in Clay County, Jacobson reported that 161 building permits were issued in 2020.  There were 35 permits for new dwellings.

Building permit valuations represent investments in Clay County.  Building projects account for $18,000,000.  The average value/project is $140,000.  The years 2018-2020 showed a rise in small projects such as additions or outbuildings. Permit numbers are up but projects are smaller than in the past.

Conditional Use Permits (CUP) and Interim Use Permits (IUP) were down for 2020. Commissioners Jenny Mongeau and Kevin Campbell speculated about whether permit numbers declined due to the pandemic and indicated interest in looking back on 2020 data in the future determine if numbers rebound when the pandemic is over. According to Director Jacobson, commercial development in rural Clay County is reflected in CUP and IUP permit numbers. In a breakdown of permitted commercial uses, gravel mine permits ranked at number one with asphalt batch plants and community solar gardens following.

Clay County collects a gravel tax.   The 2020 Clay County gravel tax revenue was $618,413.  Tons taxed totaled 2,902,552. 420,982 cubic yards were taxed. Townships with gravel pits within their boundaries receive more of the tax distribution than those without. 

The gravel tax formula was last reviewed in 1985.  It is distributed as follows:

· County-42.5%

· Townships-42.5%

· Gravel reserve fund-15%

Commissioner Frank Gross expressed concern that townships with gravel pits get the same percentage of the gravel tax as townships with only a single mine but have disproportionate damage to township roads. Director Jacobson added that some townships don’t have gravel mines but incur major road damage from gravel trucks using township roads. Commission Chair Kevin Campbell directed Jacobson to submit the formula to Highway Tracking Committee for review.

Commissioner Jenny Mongeau said, “We’ve permitted a lot of gravel pits over the past few years. There are two major projects that are going on on the North Dakota side that require a substantial amount of Clay County product. She added, “These are Clay County resources that are being exhausted going into North Dakota projects. The projects incur a significant amount of damage to county roads because of it.” Mongeau stated that she didn’t know if the permit application provided enough consideration for the damage happening to Clay County roads. She recommended that data be collected about major haul routes and the damage incurred due to increased traffic be referred to the Highway Tracking Committee.

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