Amish family in Fillmore County contests charges in building permit dispute

  • Article by: Associated Press
  • Updated: August 28, 2014 - 11:11 AM

PRESTON, Minn. — An Amish man from southeastern Minnesota says he didn't seek a permit for a home his family is building because it would have required installing a septic system, which is a modern convenience his religious beliefs wouldn't allow.

Ammon Swartzentruber appeared in Fillmore County District Court on Wednesday to contest a misdemeanor charge of failing to get a building permit for the home his family began constructing in Harmony.

"We never had to do it before and we don't believe in changing," said Ammon. "It's a new thing for us. In the 38 years that we've lived here it was our right to not have it," said Swartzentruber's father, Jacob Swartzentruber.

The county adopted new treatment system ordinances in December of 2013. Swartzentruber told KTTC-TV (http://bit.ly/1pjY988 ) that he was able to obtain building permits in the past because that ordinance didn't exist.

"In the past some of those conditions may not have been in place," said Fillmore County Attorney Brett Corson. "There may be some things that they just did not fulfill or didn't do in order to get that permit. That's probably part of it, but the major point is that they did not obtain a permit before they started building."

The permit dispute involving Amish families is not unprecedented. A judge in Wisconsin's Eau Claire County recently ruled that Amish families must obtain building and sanitary permits or risk being removed from their residences.

Swartzentruber is due back in court for a conference Sept. 10.

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