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Amish couple pleads not guilty to zoning violations

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PRESTON — An Amish couple from Harmony have pleaded not guilty to a pair of misdemeanors, saying they didn't request a permit for the home they're building because it would have required installing a septic system, a modern convenience their religious beliefs won't allow.

Ammon J. and Sarah J. Swartzentruber entered the pleas Wednesday in Fillmore County District Court, where they've been charged with two counts each of violating a county zoning ordinance.

They're due back in court Nov. 19.

The Swartzentrubers — and other Amish — haven't encountered the problem before; the county adopted new treatment system ordinances in December of 2013.

"In the past some of those conditions may not have been in place," Fillmore County Attorney Brett Corson said recently. "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."

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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.

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