Growth surged across many lakes area communities in the past 10 years.
None may be facing the growing pains more than Breezy Point, which grew by 126.6 percent since 1990. The community's population is now close to reaching 1,000. In 1980, the census listed the city's population at 384.
Vicki Willer has lived in Breezy Point for 20 years. As city clerk and treasurer, she has an inside view at the struggles to meet growing demands and a changing landscape.
"It's become a real community now," Willer said. "It used to be more resort and recreational. We see it as a residential community now. ... We are definitely having growing pains."
Nearby Pequot Lakes is used for many commercial and business needs, Willer said. The addition of a city park and a new community cemetery is also helping Breezy Point with an identity crisis.
"We've had an identity crisis over the years where it wasn't a city," Willer said of Breezy Point. For visitors Willer said "it was like 'oh you have a city.' People used to think you went through the resort gate and you were in Breezy Point, otherwise you were in Pequot Lakes. And we depend on Pequot Lakes a lot but we want our own identity. And we are getting there, slow but sure."
Breezy Point Mayor Carrie Ruud agreed about the identity crisis. At a recent economic development meeting Ruud said the entire area's growth has benefited Breezy Point with people choosing to live in the city while they work in other communities.
Breezy Point was incorporated as a city in 1939. Much of the work to designate building lots and sizes occurred in the 1960s when the city was largely a resort setting with seasonal residents.
Growth, documented by the census, is creating challenges those 1960s residents never expected. Willer said people want to build more on lots than they were originally intended to sustain as summer cabins are replaced by year-round homes.
The tension in neighborhoods can put the city in the role of counselor as the city officials and staff look at how to handle the increases and plan ahead. Willer said a city asset has been city sewer services. There are more concerns about area wetlands and handling storm water.
"People are trying to build on more and more marginal property," Willer said, adding not many lake lots are available for construction. "We don't see a lot of lake (lot) building. More and more people are going into the county."
When the city recently completed its comprehensive plan just 4 percent of the population had been in Breezy Point since the 1960s.
Nearly 42 percent of residents are 62 or older. But younger ages are part of the community's age diversity. Seventy-five percent of the city's population is 21 years-old or older. And 18 percent of Breezy Point's population is below age 14. The average age is 43.2, which may combat a stereotype about northern communities.
"I think everybody thinks we are all retired," Willer said. "We are seeing retirees that are a lot younger than traditional retirees. They are retiring in their 50s which I think is something of a newer trend. There are still a lot of first-time homeowners and a lot of kids."
When Willer moved into her neighborhood with three children in her family there were not other children on the street. Now, she said, there are 30 children in the neighborhood.
"We still have a lot of people here who are weekenders, don't get me wrong there," Willer said. "But I see it changing. Over the years I see it becoming more residential. It is home. Instead of being second home -- this is our home."
She said the seasonal population is a source of volunteerism and one of the city's assets. Breezy Point is planning using current use patterns and trying to look 20 years into the future.
About 455 homes, or 50.6 percent of total housing units, are for seasonal, recreational or occasional use. "But you have to plan as if that will be year round because someday it will be -- that's the way we look at it," Willer said.
In 2000, there were 70 new homes constructed in Breezy Point. The year before there were 68 homes built. Before that the new homes numbered in the 40s. In 1990, there were 10 new homes. Now Willer looks at vacant lot sales for an idea of how many homes to expect.
With the residential population there may be opportunities for another restaurant or cafe and service businesses such hair stylists and retail shops.
"I see service for the people that are living here," Willer said. "We don't have a big commercial industrial area. It will be interesting to see in the next 20 years what happens where the people will be and I hope we plan right."
Looking at the census results Willer said a surprise came with the list of 899 housing units. Willer said she thinks the city has more.
City offices moved into their current building in December 1995. Willer said the city has outgrown the building that they thought would last for years to come. Other issues include the need for fire protection as Breezy Point pays for higher insurance rates without fire protection based nearby. The city's cemetery will have its official dedication later this month. Today marks the second burial.
Willer said when Breezy Point decided to build a city park there were people who wondered who would play there.
From the census, 120 households have people below the age of 18. Willer said it has taken people a long time to accept some of the changes and the fact that there is a young population to consider.
Willer said: "You only have to come look at the park and see the school buses to know that."
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