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The Hubbard County Board of Adjustment's permanent members are, from left, Jerry Cole, Arnold Christianson, Charles Knight, Earl Benson and Lou Schwindt. Monday, Benson and Schwindt were out of town, so Planning Commission members Jerry Novak and Tom Krueger filled in. (Sarah Smith / Emterprise)

Board of Adjustment variance bothers Hubbard County commissioners, landowner

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Board of Adjustment variance bothers Hubbard County commissioners, landowner
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Some members of the Hubbard County commission took their own variance board to task for a quirky decision the Board of Adjustment made Monday that was contrary to procedures and without the factual basis to support granting a variance.

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"This is one of the worst decisions ever by that variance committee," said board member Don Carlson. "They didn't even follow their own rules."

The decision likewise rankled a lakeshore resident affected by the decision, who said he would seek legal counsel to possibly mount a challenge.

Why have shoreland ordinances if they're not going to follow them, questioned Bill Pearson, a 5th Crow Wing Lake homeowner.

"We're gonna file a lawsuit, or gonna try," Pearson said.

The Board of Adjustment voted Monday to allow more than three times the recommended boat slips for a 5th Crow Wing Lake resort being converted to a Planned Unit Development. The issue came up at the county board's Wednesday meeting because that body was giving final plat approval for the conversion.

In going through the six findings of fact required to grant a variance, the Board of Adjustment on Monday did not answer all the questions in the negative, meaning a "practical difficulty" didn't exist that would legally allow members to grant that variance.

"That's shaky grounds that's gonna get us in court," county board chair Lyle Robinson said. "That's crazy. The court will spank us for that."

But aside from being sued, both Robinson and Carlson worried the decision would cause environmental harm that would set the tone for future lakeshore requests.

"It does change the way property is developed in the future," Robinson said,

Board of Adjustment chair Charles Knight stressed at the Monday meeting that "we take these all individually. "A variance "is for that particular purpose, that particular use. It's not for everyone."

Robinson and Carlson were hard pressed to see that the decision hadn't set a precedent that could haunt both governmental bodies.

Eagle's Landing is adjacent to an RV park that has plans to expand.

"Growth is terrible," Pearson said. "I look out my window and see 23 trailer houses and a whole bunch of docks and now I get to look at another bunch.

"I think there could be 100 trailers in that back lot and they'll be using the docks for those people, too," Pearson said of the RV park. "This is crazy. It's a small lake."

DNR Fisheries supervisor Doug Kingsley told the Board of Adjustment having 11 dock spaces in the water at Eagle's Landing, over the recommended three, could potentially harm aquatic life in the small lake.

Carlson was incensed by the variance decision. He's a member of the Planning Commission that granted preliminary approval for the resort's conversion to a PUD, decisions that are typically rubber-stamped by the county board once there.

"I voted with the feeling that we would know better than to approve this situation," he fumed.

"We shouldn't beat up on the variance board," said county board member Dick Devine. "Over the years they've done a pretty terrific job."

Robinson pressed on, quizzing Environmental Service Officer Eric Buitenwerf about the Monday decision.

He asked whether the Board of Adjustment and Planning Commissions are properly trained to render weighty decisions that could expose the county to lawsuits.

"I take great lengths to make sure the board and planning commission are informed," Buitenwerf said, noting he warned the variance board numerous times Monday that members should not proceed to vote on the variance request once the contrary finding was agreed on.

"I warn them as much as I can without being disrespectful," Buitenwerf said.

The county board appoints the variance board's members for each of the five districts. Once the variance board's members found that the number of docks at Eagle's Landing Resort was a "substantial variation" from the shoreland management rules, it should have stopped the variance process immediately, Robinson maintained.

"They shouldn't have gone forward but they went forward anyway," Robinson said.

The county board approved the final plat request 4-1 with Carlson dissenting.

The dock decision was just the latest straw in a series of bad decisions that has caused the lake to become overpopulated, Pearson maintains.

"The county commissioners have had their heads in the sand," he said. "They could have done something a long time ago The trouble now is, it's too damn late. They opened the barn door."

Board of Adjustment member Jerry Cole opposed the dock request Monday, saying he feared the RV park would request 37 more slips.

"Yes he is and he's gonna get 'em," Pearson said. "It's sickening."

Pearson is concerned his property values will fall amid the development taking place on the southwest corner of the lake.

"We've never had any objection to RV parks per se, I have an objection to densities under any of these ordinances for anything whether it's homes or what," he said.

"It's not like we're trying to be elitist or anything but there has to be some sensible control of densities, but that appears to be falling on deaf ears. Maybe it's time to bail out."

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Sarah Smith
Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.
(218) 732-3364
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