WALKER -- Ninety-five people attended the annual Cass County planning retreat Friday at Deep Portage Conservation Reserve near Hackensack.
Many were committee members who worked a year and a half to prepare the county's comprehensive plan. Others were invited guest representatives of township, city, county, Leech Lake Reservation and Soil and Water Conservation District government. A few were invited news media representatives.
Some people thought more township officials should have been invited, but Reno Wells, Township Association chair, said township district delegates who were invited are expected to report on the county meeting to the rest of the townships.
Many who attended submitted written questions about the reasoning committee members used to prepare the comprehensive plan. Following are responses to those questions.
* How much of the plan and related ordinance the county can afford to implement now or over time will depend upon decisions the county board makes after adopting the plan. The current timetable calls for the board to consider adopting it June 18.
* Mike Wetzel, Board of Adjustment and a committee member, said Highway 371 Corridor Plan recommendations will be reflected in changes also proposed for county zoning ordinances introduced this spring.
* Minimum lakeshore lot sizes will change in the proposed revised ordinance the county board will consider, Wetzel said.
* The minor lot subdivision proposal would require more accurate surveys for land subdividing of a few lots than currently exists in the county subdivision ordinance, Harold Brace, planning commission member, said.
* Chief Deputy Auditor Larry Wolfe said the plan recommends against tax-increment financing being used by townships, because planners want to see development centered around existing municipal infrastructure: roads, sewer and water, utilities.
* On how property taxing system can benefit small resorts, Wolfe said portions of small resorts now pay a special, lower 1 percent class on part of their property, giving them a break other property tax classes do not receive.
* Fifty percent public land in Cass County is too much in one questioner's opinion. That person asked: Why not transfer more land to private ownership? Ted Lundrigan said county administered land generates substantially more revenue from timber sales than property taxes do per acre.
* On using global positioning satellite technology to locate wells, John Alden said county staff and well drillers would be encouraged to use this, because existing locations often are sketchy, making it difficult to track correlation between wells and potential ground water pollution.
* On why parents should pay for out-of-home placement costs, Commissioner Jim Demgen said the county finances about $2 million annually for this program, largely from county tax revenues. Parents who can afford to pay should, he said.
* When asked how the county can better enforce all-terrain vehicle users' abuse of the county's Spider Lake public landing, Lundrigan said the county will need to hire more enforcers, have ordinances that stands up in court and judges who back up those ordinances. Just because someone receives a citation does not mean a conviction, he said.
Good enforcement of any law is based on facts and the law and an officer's good judgment, Lundrigan said. There needs to be an enforceable law first and a provable case.
Sheriff Randy Fisher said integrity, fairness and a well thought out process are keys.
* On preventing invasive species from entering local lakes, Alden said that also takes more money for enforcement.
Lake quality data should be coordinated, so lake associations can compare not only changing data on their own lake, but with that of surrounding lakes, Alden said.
The county needs to set a model for deciding which wetlands are buildable, which have rare species and which are shoreline buffers, Alden said.
* On a question about environmental surveys, Lundrigan said where people think their boundaries are and where today's better technology shows boundaries actually are often differs. Global positioning satellite technology has improved survey capabilities, he said.
* On why the county requires 66-foot road easements in plats instead of 33-foot, Wetzel said the additional space is to provide an area for utility easements and for snow removal.
* While Wetzel said all individual sewage treatment system installers working in Cass County are licensed, Environmental Services Director Paul Fairbanks explained the county staff only inspected 25 percent of new installations last year due to lack of staff time.
The existing staff, he said, set priorities above that of inspecting vegetative removal and land separation issues.
On how the county will determine which areas to enforce sewer system compliance first, Fairbanks said, older plats, small lots and highly concentrated development would be looked at first. Cooperation will be sought from lake associations, he said.
When asked who will assist those who cannot afford to upgrade their sewer treatment system, Craig Gilbertson said the county is establishing a revolving, low-interest loan fund.
County inspection fees currently do not bring in enough money to cover inspecting all private sewer systems, but Fairbanks said a surcharge on fees could be added in the future to cover inspecting more systems.
* Why the county proposes to eliminate permanent tree stands, Land Commissioner Norm Moody said, is to prevent nail damage to trees.
Amy Ramquist, land department employee, said people who place them on county administered land often think they mark off a hunting territory by installing permanent hunting stands. County land is supposed to be open everywhere to everyone, she said, adding these stands also often include cutting adjacent timber for shooting lanes. This removes substantial timber value from county land that belongs to the county.
* On the closed versus open trails policies, Lundrigan said the county needs to pass an ordinance one way or the other, so there is an enforceable control for managing trail use.
When asked whether closing some trails puts handicapped hunters at an unfair disadvantage, Lundrigan said when trails are closed to motorized vehicle use there is a good reason having nothing to do with what type of person may be driving the vehicle.
It may be endangered species along the trail, erosion problems or other issues having nothing to do with who is driving. He also said there have been past problems with non-handicapped people taking advantage of extra benefits offered to handicapped people by riding into a hunting area with the handicapped person or shuttling all their gear in with the handicapped person.
Instead, Lundrigan said, the recreation committee recommended Deep Portage Conservation Reserve look into expanding its handicapped services by adding a special hunting season within the reserve for handicapped people.
* Government doesn't spend money. Interest groups do, Demgen said in response to a question about why Cass does not have county parks. Moody said county parks would be cost prohibitive, recommending instead that everyone support state parks.
* On cooperating with other governments, Wetzel said Cass environmental services staff works with Crow Wing County. Alden cited the Healthy Communities and Healthy Lakes programs within the county and Demgen said the county board has met with all surrounding county boards except Beltrami in the last two years.
If created, the proposed county planning department would connect the expanding databases in county departments into one databank that all departments could use, Alden said.
* Demgen confirmed that there are gaps in cellular telephone coverage in the county, especially in the Longville-Outing and Leader-Pillager areas.
* The county does not have any restrictions against lights on billboards, which one questioner believes pollute the night sky, but does restrict where billboards can be placed, Wetzel said.
* Assessor Steve Kuha said property values used for computing property taxes are based on real estate market sales.
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