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Lawsuit filed in response to dock slip variance

Eagles Landing Resort has been mired in controversy as it seeks a conversion to a Planned Unit Development. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

One month after the Hubbard County Board of Adjustment issued a controversial variance to allow nearly three times as many dock slips as the law permits to a Nevis resort turned PUD, a lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Fifth Crow Wing Lake residents seeking to overturn that decision.

And it puts county commissioner Don Carlson, a member of the Middle Crow Wing Lake Association, in the awkward position of suing the governmental body he represents.

Carlson, also a member of the county Planning Commission, said he would remove himself from any future votes over Eagles Landing Resort, but declined further comment on the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs are Ed Mutch, a Fifth Crow Wing Lake resident and member of the Coalition of Lake Associations, COLA and the Middle Crow Wing Lake Association.

Named in the suit are Hubbard County, the Board of Adjustment, the Minnesota DNR and Daniel and Donna Rehkamp, owners of the resort.

The suit also places DNR Fisheries Area Supervisor Doug Kingsley in a difficult position. Kingsley spoke in opposition to the Board of Adjustment's consideration of the extra boat slip last month, contending more traffic on the lake would disrupt the aquatic life. The excess docks also violated the Shoreland Ordinance, he said. Yet his agency is a named defendant.

The case is complicated by the meandering turns it has taken through various county boards.

It went through the Planning Commission in January where Rehkamps sought a conditional use permit to begin the conversion to a Planned Unit Development that eventually would place 11 cabins four tiers deep on the lake.

The Planning Commission, with Carlson objecting, discussed the fact that the Shoreland Ordinance only allowed three permanent docks for the PUD, based on the number of residences in the first tier of the development. Nevertheless, the Planning Commission sent the recommendation to the county Board of Commissioners approving the additional eight docks.

The County Board took up the matter later that same month, where board chair Lyle Robinson suggested that commission had acted illegally and urged the County Board not to approve the recommendation.

The County Board approved the conditional use permit with the three docks only.

The board also approved the preliminary plat for the development, now called Rice Bay Association, with three docks.

Rehkamps then went to the Board of Adjustment to seek a variance for the additional boat parking spaces. The BOA in March voted to give the Rehkamps the additional slips on a 3-2 vote. However, the factual findings the BOA used as the basis for the variance didn't support the issuance of one.

Rehkamps never appealed the County Board's decision granting the three dock slips to the District Court, the only remedy available to overturn a county decision. The BOA cannot undo a County Board action through a variance.

The suits seeks:

n A judgment declaring the Board of Adjustment improperly granted the variance;

n A declaratory judgment (a formal court ruling) that the Rehkamps' conditional use permit only allows three docks;

n An injunction preventing Rehkamps from filing the final plat or building the additional eight docks;

n An injunction prohibiting the DNR from issuing any permits for the Rehkamps to install the additional docks;

n An injunction against the county preventing it from recording the final plat until the number of permanent boat slips is determined by the court.

The plaintiffs are also seeking their costs in the suit.

"I can't comment on any aspect of this case," said Environmental Services Officer Eric Buitenwerf. He cautioned former BOA chair Charles "Chick" Knight several times in March that Knight should not proceed on the variance request once the factual findings had not been met.

Knight, however, did continue, voting in the majority to grant the variance.

Hubbard County Attorney Don Dearstyne said the case has been referred to the county's insurer and had not been assigned to an attorney as of Monday. The lawsuit was filed April 13 in Hubbard County District Court.

Mutch, the lead plaintiff, said in an e-mail: "I am at liberty to comment very little other than to state that the suit's objective is two-fold, namely 1) to prevent the illegal Hubbard County action of increasing the number of boat slips from 3 to 11 for the Rice Bay PUD from being allowed, and 2) to ensure this does not happen again down the road either on this lake or any other in the county."

Dan Rehkamp could not be reached for comment. His Facebook page indicates he now lives in Fargo.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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