Land use was a running theme Monday for the Crow Wing County District 1 commissioner candidates during a televised candidate's forum.
Challenger Gary Scheeler, currently a Brainerd City Council member, said the county is experiencing a population explosion and faces urban sprawl. He spoke of the need to respect township plans, noting at least one against growth. Scheeler said the county suffers from a lack of vision for the future.
Incumbent Dewey Tautges said the county is working toward the future and he pointed to progress on updating the comprehensive plan. Tautges repeatedly stressed his desire to protect individual property rights. He said he wants to protect Camp Ripley from encroaching development but needs to balance that with individual rights. Tautges said the way to make someone mad was to come between them and their property.
Tautges identified $700 million in new construction and hundreds of new homes since he was elected four years ago. Tautges said he supports fair and consistent land management and open dialogue with townships. He is against forced annexation.
In regard to the county's master building plan, Scheeler said some townships in the county are still using outdoor restrooms while the county builds a new Judicial Center.
"I think we are going to have sticker shock down the road here very shortly," Scheeler said of the county spending and accumulating taxes.
Tautges said he thought it was too much debt for the county. He voted against the current county building expansion.
"I hope 10 years down the road we can say this is the best thing we could have done," Tautges said.
In response to a question about keeping the Pine Meadows Golf Course, Tautges, a golfer, said he was against county ownership of the course.
"The taxpayers cannot be the buyers of last resort," Tautges said.
Scheeler said the issue needs a lot more public input.
Scheeler and Tautges were both against a countywide smoking ban. Scheeler said nonsmoking business patrons should be the ones to apply pressure to businesses. Tautges said it was a matter of personal choice and too many personal liberties are being eliminated.
RENEE RICHARDSON can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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