Mississippi River Critical Corridor Area (MRCCA) and how this affects me…
Mississippi River Stewards is concerned about several aspects of the current draft of rules that would have potentially very detrimental effects on property owners, businesses and recreational users of the Mississippi River.
Creating Non-conforming Property
The rules, as currently drafted, increase bluff line and water setbacks (see new requirements here) that would render thousands of properties in the MRCCA non-conforming. this includes more than river-front structures, but also structures that are near a bluff line, which is as shallow as a 12% grade by the draft rule’s bluff line definition. (To put this in perspective, a handicap ramp has a grade of approximatley 8-9%.) There are also new limitations for structure height, retaining walls, driveways, water accesses, tree removal and requirements to provide vegetative screening of structures. To see if your property is affected, you will need to look at the proposed districts maps (The section titled ‘Proposed Districts’ half way down the page, choose the link for the city you live in) and look at what color category your property lies within.
Will you be able to rebuild/replace/improve?
Non-conforming properties generally may not expand, nor improve existing structures until they come into conformance – which is impossible many of the cases at hand. Though some state law ensures certain rights to owners of non-conforming property, the law that pertains to non-conforming shorefront property does not provide the same guarantees. It limits the assurance that property owners would be able to rebuild and replace their structure in its previous form and location. Instead, it allows for ‘reasonable’ and unspecified additional requirements, including larger setbacks.
Will I be able to sell or refinance my property?
While it would remain legal for one to buy and sell non-conforming property, according to the mortgage and title professionals we have consulted, it would likely become unfeasible. Traditional Mortgage companies require title insurance on mortgaged properties to ensure that the real estate and structure is good as collateral should the loan default. If a title company searches a property and finds that it is non-conforming, it creates an exception to the title policy it issues. Traditional lenders cannot underwrite a mortgage on property that has an exception in the title policy. This will have a grave impact on property owners and families who may be relying on the equity in their homes to finance retirement, college educations, or even financial hardship as in medical bills. The DNR disagrees with the relevancy of this statement, however, the DNR is niether willing nor able to guarantee the availability of mortgages for MRCCA non-conforming properties, thus, this will continue to be a concern to property owners affected by the new rules of the MRCCA.