Carlton County zoning projects up despite pandemic
Carlton County saw an increase in zoning applications and inspections this past year, as well as a rise in recycling by residents.
A recent Carlton County Board of Commissioners meeting brought attention to an eventful year in the county’s zoning and environmental service department, despite the COVID-19 pandemic dominating most of 2020.
Zoning and Environmental Services Administrator Heather Cunningham presented the board with the 2020 report for the department during the meeting on Tuesday, March 9.
“Across the board all of our zoning permit numbers were up,” she said.
According to Cunningham, there were 533 zoning requests made in 2020, an increase from the 492 made in 2019. The difference translates into an additional $6,000 taken in by the department in zoning permits.
The county also saw a 22% increase in new homes built in 2020, as well as an additional $1 million spent by residents in construction costs.
Board member Gary Peterson questioned the rise in new homes, pointing out the increased cost of construction materials in 2020. Cunningham attributed the increase to 2020’s low interest rates, and said that in the end, project costs must have balanced out.
The increase in construction also led to an increase in use of the county transfer station. Officials said more materials were disposed of at the station, including items like tires and mattresses, Cunningham said.
Another point of emphasis for Cunningham was a significant difference in recycling done by county residents in 2020 compared to 2019, with approximately 315 more tons of recycling taken in by the station in 2020.
“That is a very significant increase,” she said. “Kudos Carlton County residents.”
The jump in recycling was largely due to cardboard, such as boxes used by Amazon for shipping products. Cunningham said it's likely many more people were shopping online during the pandemic. Amazon saw a 38% increase in annual revenue in 2020, according to the company's annual sales reports.
The only area within the zoning and environmental department that did not see an increase was the household hazardous waste facility, which was closed until July.
Other busy areas for the department included aquatic species and septic system inspections, which both saw increases in activity.
The county hopes to hold public hearings for possible updates to zoning ordinances in the near future.