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County denies CUP for Bolton RV Park

For the second time in less than a year, the Hubbard County Board denied a conditional use permit (CUP) for a controversial RV campground on Long Lake.

Chris Bolton requested a CUP to operate an RV park, with 14 camping sites on five acres located at 18080 Emerald Island Circle, the northwest side of Long Lake.

Last month, the Hubbard County Planning Commission recommended approval of the CUP, including 22 proposed conditions.

The planning commission had also recommended approval of the CUP in September 2018, but the county board denied it in October 2018.

Opposition

More than 100 people, comprising both permanent and seasonal lake residents, wrote in opposition to the CUP. They expressed concerns about nutrient loading and water pollution in this phosphorus-sensitive, shallow, marshy area of Long Lake.

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They also argued the park was incompatible with the adjacent quiet, residential neighborhood and natural habitat.

The Long Lake Area Lake Association, representing 270 lakeshore owners, opposed the CUP as well, saying there would be damage to the unique aquatic environment.

Opponents cited Bolton’s two violations, one in 2013 and again in 2018, for illegal clearing of aquatic vegetation in the bay. Last summer, Bolton was charged for using a hydrojet that blew out aquatic material on the lake bottom. Bolton paid the fine, and the DNR requires that the area be left to regenerate.

Finally, opponents said this CUP was not materially different than what was presented in 2018, with the exception that Bolton provided engineering, stormwater management and landscaping plans.

Findings of fact

Prior to voting, commissioners answered 12 findings of fact questions. All the findings had to be answered affirmatively in order to meet the legal criteria for approving a CUP application. To disapprove the CUP, the board did not have to answer “no” to all of the findings of fact.

Commissioners Dan Stacey, Ted Van Kempen and Char Christenson answered “no” to the question “Is the requested use compatible with adjacent land uses?”

County commissioner Tom Krueger argued there were a lot of reasons that the RV park was compatible.

“All throughout the county, you have resorts next to neighborhoods. There’s nothing uncommon about that. It’s consistent in its location,” he said, adding that the park would be 267 feet from the lakeshore, while there are currently homes within 40 feet of Long Lake.

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County commissioner David De La Hunt noted that township roads flank both sides of the proposed campground. He pointed out there are several existing commercial properties and districts within a quarter-mile radius of the RV park, which would bolster the argument that it fits in with adjacent use.

Bolton called his property “unique,” saying there was “a vast forest” and nobody living on one side of the township road. “It’s only adjacent to three homes – two of those homes are rental properties. One of them I own.” The CUP requires a privacy fence and trees between the park and the private home, he added.

Stacey, Van Kempen and Christenson also answered “no” to the question “Are the affected public waters suited to and able to safely accommodate the types, uses and numbers of watercraft that the use will generate?”

The board determined the proposed use was incompatible, due to the area’s largely residential nature, on a 3-2 vote.

Christenson said, while she appreciated Bolton’s enthusiasm for the campground, “really, the bay is my big issue.”

She was concerned about Bolton’s ability to enforce no-wake zone and no beaching/mooring on the shoreline with his campers, particularly given his prior shoreland ordinance violations.

“I’m really struggling about how – unless you have someone out there 24/7 – how are you going to keep people off this area?” Christenson asked.

Unnecessary damage to sensitive aquatic vegetation via watercraft was her chief issue. “The access channel to the lake is problematic,” due to its shallowness, Christenson said, plus the proposed location of a swim raft was also a safety hazard.

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Christenson made the motion to deny the CUP. Van Kempen seconded. The motion passed 3-2, with Krueger and De La Hunt opposed.

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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