The Plymouth County Supervisors aren't willing to take "no" for an answer on plans to add a building near the courthouse.
Last week, the Le Mars Board of Zoning Adjustment denied the county's request for a variance and permit to construct an annex building on the southeast corner of the courthouse block.
The building is planned to help alleviate a space crunch in the courthouse.
Supervisor Don Kass pointed out Tuesday that the city's code of ordinances states that any "public improvement" does not fall under city zoning regulation.
The annex building, he said, would fall under the definition of "public improvement," which the code defines as "a building or construction work which is constructed under the control of a governmental entity and is paid for in whole or part with funds of the governmental entity."
"The county attorney's office . . . re-affirmed my opinion that we don't need a variance or a conditional use permit from the city," Kass said. "The city excludes our concern in this case."
After discussion, the board decided the next step would be to have Kass and Supervisor Craig Anderson will speak with Jason Vacura, Le Mars city code enforcement officer, about the situation.
"The bottom thing is we all need to get along," Anderson said.
He responded to concerns that the plans to build the annex had "just popped up."
"We've discussed this project in the last two years 19 times . . . and those were all public meetings," Anderson said. "These aren't decisions we came by lightly. . . . We're trying to do, quite frankly, what we can afford. I'm don't have any interested in putting the county in debt to add office space to the courthouse."
One concern, Kass said, was the county was constructing a new building rather than using one of several existing, empty buildings in Le Mars.
It would cost $5,000 a year if a $20 per hour state employee had to spend an hour a day going between two buildings, Kass pointed out.
"We need the proximity to the courthouse," Anderson agreed.
Kass said some people were concerned the planned building, possibly a modular building, would be an eyesore near the historic courthouse.
"We need to change the way we talk about what we're doing," Kass said. "When we use the word 'modular,' people get the idea we're bringing in a double-wide trailer, and that is not the case."
The public, he said, hasn't had a chance to see the products the supervisors have seen.
"I don't think people object so much to us having a building but they want one that looks nice next to the courthouse," he said. "I 100 percent agree."
Kass also suggested removing the current storage shed near the courthouse as part of the project and including storage space in the new building.
"I'm willing to spend a little more money getting rid of this shed out here," Kass said. "It should be our goal to make the courthouse grounds look better when we're done than it does now."