Lawsuit could set precedent on Shoreland Ordinances
The attorney representing two lake associations explained a lawsuit filed recently against Hubbard County and its variance board in simple terms: why bother to have ordinances if public officials won't follow them?
Chuck Diessner, a Potato Lake resident and attorney for Fredrikson & Byron, P.A. in Minneapolis, sued on behalf of the Middle Crow Wing Lake Association, the Hubbard County Coalition of Lake Associations and COLA member Ed Mutsch to stop Eagles Landing Resort from putting in 11 dock slips as part of its conversion to a Planned Unit Development.
Diessner is seeking injunctive relief to prevent the DNR or Hubbard County from finalizing the PUD plat and granting the permits for the docks.
The Hubbard County board approved the preliminary plat this winter with three docks, which is all the Shoreland Ordinance allows.
Eagles Landing owners Daniel and Donna Rehkamp, instead of appealing that decision in District Court, went instead to the Board of Adjustment, which then granted the extra docks.
"Now we've got everybody's attention," Diessner said, closely guarding his remarks. He represents the COLA executive board, not the membership at large, so he apologized to the 35 members assembled Thursday night that he could not share intimate details of the litigation with them because they're not his clients.
Diessner said in general he thinks Hubbard County boards have a "sensitivity to protect our respective lakes."
"Rehkamps had no business going to the Board of Adjustment," Diessner said. "They went to the wrong place."
Because the commission is the ultimate county authority, one of its appointed boards cannot overrule a county board decision. The only remedy is to appeal in District Court.
"The county board did what is right," Diessner said.
Some COLA members questioned whether they could prevail against the county.
"This case is bigger than Fifth Crow Wing, bigger than Hubbard County," Diessner responded.
He believed the case could set a precedent to force variance boards to more closely follow the laws they are charged with upholding.
The Hubbard County Planning Commission approved the 11 boat slips in January and passed the recommendation on to the Hubbard County Board of Commissioners, which quickly squelched the proposal.
Hubbard County commissioner Don Carlson is also president of the Middle Crow Wing Lake Association. He's in the unenviable position of suing the governmental bodies he represents and has removed himself from all discussions as a commissioner and Planning Commission member.
Diessner also removed Carlson from COLA discussions by asking him to keep his mouth shut when Carlson began explaining the appointment process for Board of Adjustment seats.
Carlson promptly obeyed, to peals of laughter from the COLA members.
The county's insurance carrier, which is defending the county's portion of the lawsuit, and Rehkamps, have until next week to file a response unless they request an extension.
Rehkamps have maintained they followed all the rules in converting the resort.