EAST GULL LAKE -- Faced with an emotional issue that has divided an East Gull Lake neighborhood, the East Gull Lake Planning and Zoning Commission Monday was also split on whether to rezone a portion of land for a golf course addition at the Legacy at Cragun's golf course.
In a lengthy meeting Monday, the planning commission voted 2-2, with commission member Rob Mason abstaining, to recommend to the East Gull Lake City Council to rezone a five-acre parcel of land from residential to recreational owned by Merrill "Dutch" Cragun that will become part of a nine-hole addition to the Legacy at Cragun's golf course, which currently has 27 holes not including the Legacy Walk Reversible 9-Hole Golf Course.
The 9-hole course addition would create two 18-hole championship golf courses at Cragun's. Commission members Alma Miller and Craig Buchholz opposed the measure. Those for it were Chris Robinson and Jim Erickson.
The contested land, if developed as proposed, would become the 29th fairway at the golf course and would mean two homes would be surrounded by the golf course. The homes would continue to have road access. Another larger parcel of land was rezoned Monday from residential to recreational on a 4-0 vote, with Mason abstaining. This property includes land that will be used for the 33rd, 34th, 35th and 36th fairways of the new course.
The East Gull Lake City Council will now have to make a decision on the rezoning issue without a solid recommendation by the planning commission. The next city council meeting is 7 p.m. Nov. 14.
Doug and Carol Myers, whose home would be surrounded by the proposed course, voiced their opposition to the rezoning of the land. Their other neighbors, Don and Robyn Hummer and Keith and DeAnne Robertson, who were also directly affected by the proposed course, had signed off on the new course after agreeing to accept golf packages offered to them by Cragun. Like the Myers home, the Hummer home would be surrounded by the golf course. The golf packages would be able to be sold with their homes and would add to the resale value of their property.
The Myers and Cragun have been in negotiations on the purchase of the Myers property but could not come to an agreement. Doug Myers said the offer would have meant selling their home at a loss.
"We ask that the city deny the request," said Myers. "If you allow this rezoning to go through, the golf course will be right at our back door. Any slice or hook will mean we'll have golf balls in our yard. This is a safety concern for our four children."
"This is a real tough deal," said Hummer, who is Myers' neighbor and friend. "This is not an enviable position for me or Doug or anybody. It's unfortunate we live at a pinch point of the golf course and it's unfortunate that a resolution couldn't be made. If you knew how much sleep I've lost over this issue ... I wish the whole thing was over but we just can't make it go away. My heart is torn between the neighbors that I love and my wife who's got her own feelings. Tonight I don't think there are going to be any winners."
"You can forget about whether it increased the value of your house when it may make you lose a good friend and create this hardness," said Keith Robertson. "I've never golfed in my life but (the golf package) could be something that increases the value of my home if we choose to sell."
Cragun told the commission that a buffer zone of 75 to 100 feet would be retained between the Myers' property line and the golf fairway. Cragun said they have also agreed to other accommodations that would decrease golf traffic in front of the Myers' property.
"We feel it's a benefit to the community and we want to make it clear that this is not spot zoning," said Cragun. "Golf courses are designed by your own charter to be adjacent to residential areas."
Cragun said the half-mile hiking trail that will run along the eastern edge of the proposed nine holes, along with the cross country skiing and snowmobile trails adjacent to the golf course in the winter, will create a natural amenity for the community.
The planning commission also voted to recommend to the city council on a 4-0 vote, with Mason abstaining, to grant Cragun a variance for the grading and vegetation removal within the shore impact zone on Stephens Lake and a conditional use permit for the expansion of the Legacy at Cragun's golf course.
Cragun, the DNR, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Cass County, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Rardin Construction, Audubon International, the city of East Gull Lake and Alan Cibuzar of AW Research have been working together on a list of conditions for the proposed golf course which address environmental concerns. Cragun and his representatives proposed 36 conditions themselves and have worked with the five branches of the DNR to develop an ecologically sound golf course. The course will monitor ground and water quality, among other environmental measures.
"We're satisfied that the city and Cragun's will end up with an environmental jewel," Cragun said today. "I'm sorry it was such a highly emotional meeting because it made it difficult to look at how (the course) will benefit the community."
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