WALKER -- The Cass County Board voted Tuesday to approve the Ridges of Lantern Bay plat on Woman Lake. Commissioner Rusty Lilyquist abstained from the vote.
The board voted unanimously to ask Environmental Services Director Paul Fairbanks to prepare necessary zoning ordinance amendments and schedule public hearings to amend county ordinances, giving the planning commission final approval authority over future plats. No board action then would be required on plats.
Commissioner Jim Dowson's motion was "that the county board get out of plat involvement."
Currently, the board sets ordinances, but the Environmental Services Department, the planning commission and board of adjustment administer the ordinances other than plats. Appeals go directly to district court.
Board action followed Minnesota Counties Insurance Trust attorney Scott T. Anderson's legal advice to the board to act on the proposed plat rather than to table it.
Anderson will represent the board in Cass County District Court where Save Lantern Bay Action Committee has filed two suits over this plat. Tuesday, Anderson advised the board he does not believe the court can fully decide issues relating to the case without definitive county board action on it.
Save Lantern Bay contends in one lawsuit that the county planning commission should have required an Environmental Impact Statement. Only an Environmental Assessment Worksheet was completed on the property.
The committee contends in another lawsuit that the plat does not comply with current provisions of the county plat and zoning ordinances and current ordinance versions should apply in this case.
Cass County, however, traditionally has applied a version of the plat in existence at the time application is made for a plat. This was the case with Ridges of Lantern Bay.
In addition to legal issues between the Save Lantern Bay Committee and Cass County before the court, Thousand Acres Development LLC of Elk River, the plat developer, has filed a claim with the court, contending the county violated a 60-day rule by not giving final approval or disapproval to the plat within a set time period.
Anderson said the court could hear all related issues in this case sometime in September, but no exact date has been set yet.
During a public comment period Tuesday before the board took action, Bob Adams, a Lantern Bay resident, warned the board that approval Tuesday would open the door to allowing Thousand Acres Development LLC to begin selling lots within the plat.
This weakens Save Lantern Bay Committee's appeal position, he said, adding that the committee's legal counsel contends planning commission approval is sufficient for the court to hear issues in this case.
Dick Kruger, a Woman Lake resident, asked the board to delay action until the Sept. 2 board meeting, noting Save Lantern Bay Committee has received donations from 300 Child, Girl and Woman Lake Association members toward a $300,000 goal to match other funding to buy the plat property and donate it to the state as a preserve.
That two-week delay would give enough time to complete the fund-raising effort, he said.
Jack Gracik, Thousand Acres Development LLC treasurer, told the board delaying final plat approval is costing his company $1,000 a week in carrying costs.
He also said the firm will not consider any buy-out offer until the courts resolve all issues in this case.
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