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5th Crow Wing RV park gets board permission to expand

This aerial photograph shows the density of Shady Lawns RV Estates on 5th Crow Wing Lake. The Hubbard County board approved expansion of the park by 9 sites Wednesday. (Hubbard County ESO)

Fifth Crow Wing Lake was again in the spotlight Wednesday as the Hubbard County board allowed the expansion of Shady Lawns RV Estates, over the objections of lake activists.

"The last time you were here you traded 9 (RV) spots for boat slips," commissioner Lyle Robinson reminded resort owner Scott Forbes. "Now you're back" requesting the trailer spaces given up in the 2007 deal.

Forbes replied he felt pressured into the agreement by a former county commissioner and said he is legally entitled, under the county density ordinance, to place 73 RVs on the 22-acre lot.

The 13 dock slips he has coincide with the 13 riparian lots on the property, Forbes said.

Environmental Services Officer Eric Buitenwerf said the 2007 agreement was simply a clarification of terms of the RV park, and no concessions were exchanged.

Fifth Crow Wing resident Ed Mutsch and Coalition of Lake Associations president Dan Kittilson objected to the expansion.

Mutsch, a COLA member, said expanding the RV park will "contribute to the slow death" of the lake by allowing too many people and watercraft on the 400-acre body of water.

"The traffic has increased in lockstep with the RV park population growth to the point that it is often heavy and frequently dangerous, as the many boats, some pulling water skiers, others pulling various types of tubes, vie for water space with recreational boaters, kayakers, canoers and fishermen," Mutch wrote the Environmental Services Office in a three-page letter. "Additional boat traffic... is a recipe for human tragedy."

Forbes explained that the population of his park is generally older and many do not even use the lake.

Mutsch is the plaintiff in a lawsuit suing the resort next door to Shady Lawns, Eagle's Landing, for the number of boat slips the county's variance board granted it 18 months ago. Mutsch maintains in the suit, joined by COLA and the Middle Crow Wing Lake Association, that the decision in Eagle's Landing ran counter to the shoreland ordinances and placed too much pressure on the lake's ecosystem.

The case is pending before the Minnesota Court of Appeals after a district judge sided with the plaintiffs.

Forbes said his resort was converted to the RV park and many environmental measures were taken, including re-vegetating the shoreline and removing five concrete walkways that went to the lake. He said he ameliorated many of the mistakes the first investors made removing trees and shrubs.

A uniform storage shed was built to contain the seasonal residents' clutter and enhance the aesthetics of the area, Forbes noted.

In allowing the expansion of the park from 40 lots to 49, commissioner Cal Johannsen said he didn't see how the board could refuse.

"Nothing in the application puts them over the density of what's allowed," Johannsen pointed out. The board unanimously approved the request.

Mutsch objected, wondering if Forbes would come back to the board in a few years and request 10 more RV spaces.

Hubbard County board vice chair Dick Devine said commissioners would consider each request as it comes. And Johannsen pointed out the lake has a public access that allows anyone to launch there.

In other business, the board:

n Adopted a resolution revoking a 1973 action that would have authorized countywide assessing. It was never implemented.

Commissioners determined the present system of township assessors works well and they saw no reason to change.

Auditor Pam Heeren suggested re-evaluating the system, because mistakes in assessing are costly and time-consuming for her office to repair if, for instance, an assessor were to place a garage on the wrong parcel of property. That entails a three-year shuffling of tax revenues to the various taxing districts.

"If we have a township we're having some problems with, we need some leverage" to address the mistakes, Heeren said.

Commissioners agreed to have her and Assessor Bob Hansen review the present system.

"There are pros and cons no matter which way you go," Hansen told the board. "Township assessors are more responsive."

n Added two more timber sales to the county's upcoming timber sale Oct. 11. The county's forest management plan is increasingly coming under scrutiny as complaints have arisen from lumber mills buying Hubbard County wood.

Commissioners questioned why the county hasn't been harvesting as many 80-year-old stands of aspen as it probably should.

Land Commissioner Mark Lohmeier said the county could accelerate that harvest, but in a decade, it might reach a period where the younger stands, 40 years old, hadn't reached maturity to harvest.

"There's going to be a deficit, a dip in the age," Lohmeier said. "We're trying to fill the gap. There was no forest management 40 years ago. It's gonna mean we have older stuff."

Commissioners questioned that strategy, wondering if the forest plan was in place to perpetuate the land department and feed the lumber mills, or if it should be implemented to maintain healthy forests.

A stakeholders committee has been appointed to help the department with a long-term plan. It will meet the same day as the timber auction, Oct. 11.

The current plan calls for decelerating the cutting of aspen by 2012, Lohmeier told the board.

Devine, who was on the committee that helped formulate the 2002 10-year plan, said the county hasn't evolved in the past decade.

"If we're continually cutting old wood somebody doesn't want..." he questioned. "Ten years later we're doing the same thing."

n Agreed to implement a "check diversion program" that would work with first-time writers of NSF checks to reimburse merchants and teach the defendants to be more fiscally responsible. The request came from the Downtown Business Association, which had been using a Rochester company to collect on bad debts. This would be an optional program run much like the drug and alcohol diversion programs.

n Discussed changing meeting protocols so that information directed to the board would have a timeline for submission and review.

The issue arose earlier this fall when a COLA representative handed out a several-page addendum of suggestions to the shoreland ordinance during a public hearing. Commissioners said they don't want to be forced to consider last minute ordinance changes when they haven't had time to review them before the meetings.

n Learned requests for income maintenance skyrocketed in August, doubling requests for July.

Although caseloads have risen only incrementally, Social Services Director Darryl Bessler said the number of intake requests that need to be processed to determine eligibility for benefits could be a bad sign the economy isn't improving.

n Approved the Sheriff's Department spending grant money around $32,000 to purchase ARMER radio equipment, a new shallow bottomed boat, motor and trailer and two cold water rescue suits.

Sarah Smith

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

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