Debra Keefe, owner of Chimney Rock Campground in Bluffton, has appealed a recent order requiring her to remove three structures on her campground.

This fall, Winneshiek County supervisors voted to proceed with enforcement of county zoning ordinances regarding three cabins they said had been illegally constructed without compliance certificates.

Keefe was notified Nov. 5 the structures are illegal and must be removed, due to her failure to obtain construction-compliance certificates (building permits) for the cabins. The notice ordered Keefe to "discontinue use of and remove the illegal structures ... not later than Dec. 5, 2013 and shall be completed, with the land returned to the original state, not later than March 5, 2014."

Hearing Jan. 7

On Nov. 15, Keefe appealed to the Winneshiek County Board of Adjustment Zoning Administrator Tony Phillip's order to remove the cabins. A public hearing on the matter before the Board of Adjustment has been scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 7, in the large courtroom of the Winneshiek County Courthouse.

In her appeal, Keefe said the cabins are not in non-conforming use.

"They are in an A1 zoning district and can be used for ag purposes," she said.

"The (county's) action is premature. Planning and Zoning is considering action to improve cabins in A1.

"The action is discriminatory. This is the first and only order on this topic by Winneshiek County Zoning and other non-conforming cabins have been left up for years," she said.

Keefe has asked the county to postpone any legal action against her.

"Planning and Zoning has stated they will take up changes in the zoning ordinances. I do not wish to be subjected to legal removal orders for buildings that may be legal within 2014," she said.

"I already have four other cabins on this and adjoining property. I own Chimney Rock, a long standing campground serving the tourist and visitor needs of Winneshiek County consistent with Winneshiek County Zoning ordinances and Smart Plan."


In a separate action, Keefe filed a lawsuit against the Board of Supervisors and the Planning and Zoning Commission earlier this fall challenging its refusal to rezone a narrow strip of land at her campground from A-1 agricultural to C-1 commercial to bring her three existing cabins into compliance with county zoning ordinances.

The lawsuit states the county's position is "unreasonable, arbitrary and discriminatory," because similar requests made by other property owners have been granted.

In addition, the suit asks the court to reverse the decision to deny her rezoning request, calling it "illegal" because the recommendation and decisions are "not consistent with the facts as presented at the public hearing."

The lawsuit contends the county did not have a factual basis for denying Keefe's rezoning request and the decision was inconsistent with and in opposition to the Winneshiek County Comprehensive (land-use) Smart Plan.

The Planning and Zoning Commission also denied a recent request by Keefe to rezone the property occupied by three rental cabins from A-1 agricultural to C-1 commercial.

Keefe's campground currently exists as a "legal conforming use" of A-1 agricultural. She had revised a previous zoning request after the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended denial of a request to change the entire campground from A-1 agricultural to C-1 highway commercial.

In October, the Board again tabled the discussion of enforcement, citing current "inadequacies in zoning," and discussed a recent motion to give Phillips permission to research hiring a consultant to help the county update its comprehensive plan.