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Letter: Protecting the lakes; rebuttal response

The Aug. 21 edition of the Park Rapids Enterprise carried a piece of Guest Commentary on shoreland ordinances submitted by this writer. As the subject of shoreland ordinances is not one in which newspaper readers typically have an intensive interest, I tied the points I wished to make to a current local situation in which the Dan and Mary Jeanne Schneeman family have sought nine variances that would enable the family to convert multi-unit resort property that the family has owned and used for 40 years into a Planned Unit Development (PUD). The bottom line message was that I agreed with Hubbard County COLA opposition to the Schneeman petition on the grounds that the petition did not conform to current shoreland regulations.

The Aug. 25 edition of the Enterprise and Aug. 28 edition of the Northwoods Press contained a seemingly quite heated Letter to the Editor from a Mr. Richard Schmidt taking vehement exception to both the arguments and the conclusion of the Guest Commentary. While the letter was apparently intended as a rebuttal, it betrayed a serious lack of understanding of exactly what is in the current shoreland regulations and, since it is quite possible that the misunderstandings are shared by others, it seemed worth attempting to "set the record straight," especially since this issue is one that potentially impacts all Hubbard County residents.

Mr. Schmidt contends that the Schneeman PUD plan "greatly improves the site and the lake impact." While the Guest Commentary conceded that this is arguably likely, it is not demonstrable and, in any event, is irrelevant, since shoreland regulations have very specific guidelines for the conversion of a resort to a PUD, and the variance requests sought are not in compliance with those guidelines.

Mr. Schmidt then felt compelled to bring in another ongoing local controversy, namely the lawsuit brought against Hubbard County earlier this year by three plaintiffs including the writer, seeking to overturn the variance approval granted earlier this year by the Hubbard County Board of Adjustment as part of the intended conversion of the 5th Crow Wing Lake Eagles Landing Resort to a Rice Bay PUD. The variance approval allows the PUD 11 boat slips while the shoreland ordinance permits only three. Mr. Schmidt contends that "the Rehkamps (Eagles Landing Resort owners) wisely seek to 'retain' the 11 slips they have had for 30 plus years which would lessen the lake impact by leaving boats at the dock, instead of burning gas by constantly taking them in and out of the water." Once again the statements about lake impact are conjectural, not demonstrable, while any implication that 11 boat slips are grandfathered in because they have been allowed for 30 plus years, is incorrect because shoreland regulations have very specific guidelines for the conversion of a resort to a PUD, and this variance approval was a clear violation of those guidelines.

Some might conclude from Mr. Schmidt's letter and this response that he and I are poles apart on the issues of lakeshore development and public waters protection; nothing could be further from the truth. Mr. Schmidt states that "the lakes are not yours; they belong to the people of Minnesota to enjoy." I could not agree more. Since the shoreland rules exist to protect the lakes for the enjoyment of all, an insistence that such rules be followed by all should hardly be found objectionable ... much less elitist.

Ed Mutsch