NISSWA -- Five counties in north-central Minnesota will have new rules on shoreland development by 2006 under a pilot project for the rest of Minnesota.
Possible changes were discussed Thursday at the Nisswa Community Center.
Crow Wing, Cass, Aitkin, Hubbard and Itasca counties will get new rules through Gov. Tim Pawlenty's Clean Water Initiative, which was announced earlier this year. The new rules eventually could become law statewide.
Rules on shoreland development were last updated in 1989, but rapid growth and development in Minnesota's lake regions have environmentalists saying existing rules no longer are stringent enough.
"A lot of things have happened that tell us our shoreland rules are outdated," said Russ Schultz, DNR hydrologist. "These five counties will lead the way and serve as models for the rest of the state. Other counties are upset because they weren't included, which is a good sign. It means people are concerned."
Among the top concerns voiced at this meeting and two earlier meetings in Aitkin and Park Rapids is the trend toward planned unit developments, in which single-family cabins or small resorts are replaced by town houses and condominiums, whose buyers want access to the water. Current zoning laws were not designed to handle the higher population densities that result from PUDs, Schultz said.
Another concern is second- and third-tier development, in which houses are built a distance from the lake and sold with the guarantee of lake access. Efforts will be made to bring housing contractors and Realtors into the discussion, Schultz said.
A third concern is the practice of classifying lakes as general development, recreational development or natural environment, depending on surface acreage and shoreline type. The classifications are outdated because some lakes have all three types of shoreland while other lakes of the same size have just one type.
An example, Schultz said, is Washburn Lake near Outing and Round Lake near Brainerd. Washburn has 1,554 surface acres. Round has 1,644. Washburn has multiple types of shoreland and two distinct basins connected by a channel. Round has one type of shoreland and a single basin. Both lakes are classified as general development.
People at the Nisswa meeting also said the state must provide stricter enforcement of all rules, saying variances are too easy to get and many people break the law simply because they can afford to pay the fines.
Although the five counties in this pilot project will have new shoreland rules by 2006, municipalities can choose to act sooner, Schultz said.
For more information, go to the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us, click on "Waters" and then "Shoreland Rules Update."
VINCE MEYER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5862.
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