11/2/2017 2:49:00 PM Wasioja joins Concord as a 'hamlet'
By Gretta Becay
Dodge County Commissioners last week designated Wasioja as a "hamlet" on the recommendation of the County Planning Commission.
Zoning Administrator Melissa DeVetter explained to the commissioners at their meeting Oct. 24 that, by designating Wasioja a "hamlet," and by vacating certain streets, the number of nonconforming properties would be reduced and property owners would be able to use their property for different uses without having to apply for variances, a costly and time-consuming process both for residents and county employees.
She explained that the Wasioja Township Board held a public meeting Oct. 9 and those who attended were in favor of the actions.
In the 1800's, Wasioja was such a thriving community, the town's planners laid out 100-foot wide streets in preparation for future growth. The town even boasted a seminary. Built of local limestone and dedicated in 1858, it had an enrollment of more than 300 young men. It was renamed Northwest College in 1860.
Wasioja even rivaled the small town of Rochester in size.
The Civil War changed Wasioja's fortunes and future forever. Many of the students at the school volunteered to join the Union Army and helped form Company C of the Second Minnesota regiment. They left school and traveled away to fight against the Confederacy to end slavery and reunite the nation.
By the end of the war, the exodus of so many young men had caused the decline of the seminary, and it closed in 1894.
With the demise of the school, which once stood proudly in the center of a thriving community, Wasioja's population dwindled and now it has relatively few residents.
The community was rezoned to rural residential in the mid 1990's and those wide platted streets still on property maps hindered local residents when they wanted to, for example, add a shed to the back yard, expand their gardens, or build on to their houses.
Property sales were even affected by the mapping as property lines were difficult to ascertain.
In February, the Dodge County planning commission approved a zoning amendment to the county zoning ordinance establishing Hamlet Districts.
Only two town sites have been declared hamlets; Concord and now Wasioja. DeVetter said there are no other town sites in the county that would be eligible for this designation.
The commissioners unanimously approved the requested actions.
"It's the best solution to a bad scenario," commented Commissioner Rod Peterson.
The commissioners also approved the county assuming the authority to enforce state statute 272.162.
Read the rest of the story in the print edition of the Star Herald.