Weather Forecast


BOA deals with terrestrial changes to lakeshore lots

Dennis and Lucy Jacobson demonstrate Lucy's unique way of rappelling down to the lakeshore. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Erosion issues are causing Hubbard County's Board of Adjustment to cut lakeshore property owners some slack as to what they can remove or fill on lakefront lots.

But the board has no tolerance for homeowners who, through their actions, exacerbate the potential for runoff into area lakes.

In three cases the board considered issues of altering the landscape near the lake frontage. In two cases the board held firm that property owners must not disturb ice ridges.

The earth removal issue

It granted Tony and Lora Hicks permission for landscaper Shannon Henrickson to reinforce their hillside erosion on Lake Belle Taine by using a two-tiered retaining wall.

"The house is in danger of losing its foundation and sliding into the lake," board alternate Oakley Williams noted.

"I see it as an improvement," said board member Lou Schwindt. "It'll stabilize the whole area."

"The hillside is already fracturing and slumping," Henrickson told the board. "I don't know of any way to better stabilize this than to do the project like this," he said in reference to neighbors who sent a letter objecting to "altering the natural shoreline."

The plan calls for planting native vegetation to put down root growth after the terraces are formed and diverting runoff from going into the lake. The board deferred to Henrickson's expertise in the matter. Henrickson said doing nothing was not an option.

"It will solve several serious issues," board chair Jerry Cole said.

The board, with Earl Benson abstaining, voted 4-0 to approve the project.

In another request the board approved a proposal by the Hudson Family Trust to remove 3,100 cubic yards of shoreline material to build on 8th Crow Wing Lake.

Don Hudson said that much material would need to be removed in order for him and his wife to build a one-level retirement home without making the home "subterranean."

"According to the Environmental Services Office 400 dump trucks would be removed," remarked board member Earl Benson. "That seems like a lot of dirt to me. Is there some other design that wouldn't disturb that much land?"

The White Oak Township Board wrote to oppose what it called an "excessive amount" of material being removed. The home straddles the White Oak and Nevis township lines.

But board member Lou Schwindt said both the home and septic system are being moved out of the 100-foot setback, which is a goal the board is striving to achieve in all renovation projects.

"The contractors impressed me," Cole said on last week's on-site meeting. "They know what they're doing."

The board approved the request 4-1, reasoning there wasn't much else the family could do with the topography. Benson disagreed.

The third request entailed an after-the-fact request by Jeffrey and Kimberly Bjustrom to sanction an after-the-fact removal of land in the shore impact zone of Little Sand Lake. Kimberly Bjustrom requested allowing the family to keep a retaining wall. In return, Bjustroms agreed to remove some boulders in the setback area and restore the lakeshore to its natural environment.

"These folks are trying to do the right thing," Cole observed. "Unfortunately they didn't get the right permits."

But the board debated whether it should allow the retaining wall to remain.

"It wasn't necessarily needed but it's not harming anything now that it's there," Environmental Services Officer Eric Buitenwerf advised the board.

Neighbors wrote to oppose the project and the "blatant disregard" for shoreland ordinances.

"I think it looks really nice," neighbor David Rice told the board. "Leveling out the property makes it look more appealing. There's more grass to catch the runoff."

Benson said he failed to see a practical difficulty that would entitle the couple to a variance.

"Because of the possibility of erosion, there's a practical difficulty," Cole suggested.

Kimberly Bjustrom said the couple wasn't aware of the shoreland management ordinances until after they completed the project.

The board approved the after-the-fact variance 5-0, reasoning removing the retaining wall would create more of an erosion problem than the wall solved.

The ice ridges stayeth

But board members balked in two cases of ice shelf alteration, maintaining ice ridges, caused when massive ice sheets push up on shores during spring melt, must not be disturbed.

It denied a request by John Larson to make a 20-foot-wide cut into a permanent ice shelf on Paine Lake so he could roll a dock in and out.

"If you have a narrow path there to roll a dock in and out you don't have to mess with the shoreline," Schwindt suggested. "It's pretty natural and pristine there. I'm not sure cutting that ridge is a good idea. We try to keep these ice ridges intact if possible."

Board members suggested a small ATV-type of dock launch system would minimize harm to the area. Larson recently purchased two state forest lots and built on them. He wanted to put a dock somewhere in between the lots.

In the second case, the board denied an after-the-fact request of a homeowner who already cut into an ice shelf on Kabekona Lake to launch a boat.

"It seems they've taken it upon themselves to cut a rather wide swath in their ice ridge," Schwindt noted of the Curtis Neese property. Neese did not attend the hearing.

"I don't think we should allow people to mess with their ice ridges," Williams said.

"This is a nasty cut," Schwindt agreed. "It's very detrimental to this lake."

The board voted to deny the after-the-fact request and have the area restored by Oct. 15.

Practical difficulty? Exhibit 'A'

Lucy Jacobson went down to her lakeshore twice all summer. She rappels down a rope to get to the dock.

The steep Pickerel Lake lot, unless you're wearing spikes and mountain climbing gear, is inaccessible otherwise.

Lucy and Dennis Jacobson's geodesic dome house perches on the steep hill. If they want to use the lake, they go down the beach to their son's home.

Dennis Jacobson loves to fish the lake, so he's down the beach often, or he trudges over the hillside, pole in hand.

"Lucy has some balance problems," he explains, pointing to the rope.

They have a beautiful view overlooking the lake, but topography only a billy goat would want.

The board approved their request to construct a small lakeside dock halfway down the embankment in the shore impact zone, with stairs going further down to the lake. The encroachment would be only seven feet.

When the board visited the site last week, one board member questioned why a 4-foot deck outside the lakeside door wouldn't work. The Jacobsons were incredulous. That would still put them one step away from the embankment and necessitate a stairway.

"They were very gracious to us at the meeting," Dennis Jacobson said Wednesday night. He'd been unsure the request would be granted.

"You'd need steps down to the lake for safety purposes," Knight agreed.

In other action, the board:

n Tabled indefinitely a request by Eagle's Landing Resort to place seven docks in its converted Rice Bay Owners Assn. Planned Unit Development.

The case of how many docks the PUD can have is pending before the Minnesota Court of Appeals and the resort owners thought it would be prudent to await a decision before placing another request before the BOA.

BOA members unanimously agreed.

n Approved an after-the-fact permit by Lake Hattie homeowners who replaced his deck without a permit. Paul and Jodi Kjolhaug, who also did not attend the meeting, replaced a rotting deck on the same footprint and added a railing to keep their grandchildren safe.

"They thought a permit was not necessary to replace the deck," board member Charles Knight said.

n Granted a request by Richard and Rosalie Orvis to place a permanent porch on the back of their Lake Belle Taine home to replace an aluminum framed porch that has a canvas cover that must be removed each winter.

"It's a reasonable request," Schwindt said.

n Granted a variance to Martha McClelland Tacker to place a 16-foot wide driveway within the 150-foot setback zone on her Skunk Lake lot, as it was the only place to connect the home to the township road. The township road likewise didn't meet the 150-foot setback.

n Approved an after-the-fact variance request by Cletus Vickstrom to approve his placing a cabin on his Round Lake lot without a permit.

An apologetic Vickstrom said he'd read an ordinance five years ago when he first purchased his peninsula stating he didn't need a permit for a building smaller than a 14-by-20-foot building. So he located a 10-by-14-foot hunting cabin as best as he could on the lot.

Commissioners said the placement was likely in the best spot possible and the cabin has no running water or electricity.

But adhering to a request by Coalition of Lake Association member Bill Cowman, Vickstrom agreed not to remove vegetation near the lake, which also borders the Sand River, and to maintain the status quo within his family in perpetuity.

The outhouse must undergo a septic inspection, Buitenwerf told Vickstrom.

n Approved a request by Donald and Erin Phillips to allow their guest cabin to remain on their 8th Crow Wing property as they build a new home.

Architect Stephen Holt said a trailer home will be permanently removed and the lot combined with an adjacent piece of property. The living quarters over the garage is 164 square feet more than an allowable guest cabin, but board members reasoned the excess was small for the size of the lot, which will have around 235 feet of lake frontage.

Holt also agreed, per a suggestion by COLA, to re-vegetate the lakeshore after the trailer is removed and never to try to subdivide the property.

n In a recently decided case, the Environmental Services Office sent a letter to a Grand Forks man asking him to tear down or move a $400,000 guest cabin built above his Shallow Lake garage without a permit. The structure must be removed or moved by the end of the year, the letter stated.

Builder Barry Munson said the homeowner would retain an attorney to see what he should do.

Sarah Smith

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

(218) 732-3364