Proposed changes to Crow Wing County’s land use ordinance will be back before the board Tuesday.
Controversial issues continued to be impervious surface, vegetation buffers, lot sizes and the proposed phasing out of a one-time building expansion option.
Critics have called the proposed changes an over-reach of government infringing on property owners rights causing economic harm, particularly to building trades and the real estate industry. Residents in favor of the proposed changes spoke of protecting the lakes as an economic resource, which bring in tourists and makes the area a desirable place to live.
The proposed ordinance changes were before the board March 8 when the majority of commissioners voted to delay a decision for two weeks, which is up Tuesday.
Public hearings on the topic have brought out people both for and against the proposed revisions. Some said studies show lakeshore property owners are not the core problem for source pollution. Others said protecting lake assets now is more effective and less expensive than working to fix impaired waters later.
A lakeshore owner said a buffer zone he created a year ago has not kept the family’s 11 grandchildren from enjoying the lake and he believed revisions would help keep the lakes clean. An area builder said lake home owners are being victimized when they are investing in the area economy by spending on contractors, groceries and gas.
Kevin Goedker, Greater Lakes Association of Realtors president, said the proposed ordinance was not acceptable. Goedker said in terms of lake and water quality it would be more appropriate to look at what was working for lake improvement than infringe upon property rights. Goedker used a handful of straws as a visual prop, removing straws from one hand to the other, to show how property rights have been taken away.
Judy Wallschlaeger, Whitefish Area Property Owners Association past president, said she commended the county for recognizing her right to clean water.
Brent Gunsbury, on behalf of the Mid-Minnesota Builders Association, presented the board with written suggested changes from an attorney’s office.
One sticking point involved the county’s proposal limiting the one-time expansion for a structure built before Jan. 6, 1970. Another point of contention came as MMBA questioned using county staff for inspection of footing placements.
Gunsbury said after the county had made great strides in cooperation the revisions were moving the county back to the old “gotcha” versions of planning and zoning of the past.
Tony Bauer said the county will need more staff help to manage the performance based regulations and that was coming at a time when commissioners should be asking what they could do to lower the cost of living here.
Mark Liedl, land services director, pointed to efforts that have cut staff from 51 to 33 in the last three years and trimmed more than a $1 million in spending. Administrator Tim Houle said simply there will be no new resources coming for the department.
At the March 8 board meeting, Chairman Paul Thiede said it was the last public hearing. At that session Thiede was involved in exchanges with residents who came to the microphone to speak.
Guy Green, Brainerd, said getting 100-percent input doesn’t mean anything if the county officials just do whatever they want and the national scene is an indicator people are watching, listening, taking notes and ready to act.
Thiede said in a republic the board represented the people and made the decisions. Thiede said the board was trying to be as informed as possible. In reply from his seat in the audience, Green said he wasn’t challenging Thiede’s integrity but his judgment.
In recent days, real estate agents suggested the county was benefiting financially to make the land use changes by receiving a $135,000 grant for conservation and recreation planning from the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources. Language describing the project said the appropriation was contingent upon the county developing ordinances to protect natural resources.
Houle said that statement isn’t accurate. The county reports the LCCMR application was withdrawn March 4. The county reported it was pursuing the grant to continue with the Gull Lake Micropolitan Project and broaden the scope to the Gull River and Pine River watersheds. But after Region Five received a significant grant, which will help coordinate similar planning activities, the county withdrew its application.
“We aren’t receiving any money from the state for our ordinance rewrite. Period,” Houle stated.
The proposed ordinance revisions will be before the board Tuesday morning with an expected time of 10:15 a.m. or later.
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5852.