County rejects petition for EAW
Hubbard County commissioners moved Wednesday to deny a citizen petition for an environmental assessment worksheet (EAW) of the Fisher Park development. Developer Tom Fisher proposes platting 40 acres in Mantrap Township into 14 parcels on Crow Wi...
Hubbard County commissioners moved Wednesday to deny a citizen petition for an environmental assessment worksheet (EAW) of the Fisher Park development. Developer Tom Fisher proposes platting 40 acres in Mantrap Township into 14 parcels on Crow Wing and Spider lakes.
Commissioner Don Carlson was the only one to vote for the request.
"A number of people expressed concern and should be listened to," said Carlson.
"People grandfathered in on the ordinances are opposing lots bigger than theirs. What's that called?" asked commissioner Lyle Robinson.
An EAW measures a proposed development for potential environmental impact on a cross-organizational basis.
According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Web site, the county, as the responsible governing unit for a lakeshore development, can order a discretionary EAW if it appears the project has the potential for significant effects.
Rules for determination of EAWs say petitions must include "material evidence of significant environment impact."
Material evidence can include maps, site plans, existing reports, letters from experts, testimonials from citizens or photographs, but must be factual documentation.
The citizens petition listed seven possible concerns about the proposed development.
n Numerous wetlands situated on the development;
n An environmentally sensitive bay in the northwest corner of Spider Lake adjacent to the development used as a spawning and nesting habitat;
n Harm to wetlands from proposed septic systems;
n Possible degradation of water quality;
n Increased boat traffic;
n Destruction of habitat from shoreland and beach clearing for the development; and
n Lack of proactive mitigation measures by the developer.
The petition evidence included minutes from the April 10 planning commission meeting and a plat of Fisher Park.
At the April 10 planning commission meeting, the inspection team raised concerns about the size of the wetlands. Surveys of wetlands occurred during winter months, without the presence of vegetation.
An environmental services office (ESO) memo regarding the petition, later accepted by the board as a finding of fact, addressed the concerns.
Review of the suspect wetland delineation will be conducted when weather permits, ESO officer Eric Buitenwerf assured the board.
ESO is holding off inspections of the property until the EAW request is settled, said Buitenwerf.
Shoreland ordinances only regulate land up to the highest water mark, giving the county no jurisdiction of fish spawning areas, the memo stated, but lot owners would have to comply with Department of Natural Resource regulations.
ESO discounted water quality considerations, boat traffic and shoreland modification as speculative and "lacking quantifiable data."
Commissioners disagreed on whether ESO's response was sufficient to address the potential problems.
Robinson said any time a development is planned, neighbors become concerned.
"You have to take every one of the points step by step. I don't think you will find it meets the test," Robinson said.
"When I read the memo and connect all the words together, I can see the need for a review," Carlson responded.
"Give me an example where an EAW would have done good," said Robinson.
"Fifth Crow Wing Lake," replied Carlson.
"That ended up passing," Robinson said.
"You voted for it, but it wasn't right," Carlson shot back.
Carlson indicated Spider Lake is classified as a natural habitat lake, and more sensitive to development due to shallowness.
"I own property on a natural environment lake, and it's 90 feet deep at some points. I think you are confusing environmentally and politically sensitive," Robinson said.
"I don't believe I am. Natural environment lakes are sensitive," Carlson said.
Information from April 10 planning commission notes list Crow Wing as a natural environment lake, and Spider as a recreational development lake. According to the citizens' petition, the northwest bay of Spider Lake averages a depth of three feet.
Robinson said the criteria for an EAW is based on county ordinances. The planning commission will review the same ordinances when conducting its review.
As a preliminary plat, Robinson reasoned, a developer can increase numbers of lots corresponding to the price of development. Completing an EAW puts a burden on a developer, possibly resulting in smaller lot sizes and a greater environmental impact.
"Apparently, the developers don't realize people want larger lots," said Robinson.
Robinson said he favored protection, but if a development meets the ordinance criteria, the county has little recourse.
"We already have one of the most restrictive ordinances in the state," he added.
Robinson then recounted a purchase he made from a developer to prevent unwanted development.
He said the determination for granting an EAW has to be based on factual findings.
"I'm not sure that's true," Carlson said.
Nevis resident and petitioner Todd Luke asked the board to reconsider the request. "I don't think the environmental assessment is prohibitive," he said.
Robinson said the ordinances the county has control over will be addressed when the planning commission reviews the plat.
Robinson asked for Buitenwerf's recommendation on the petition.
"Based on a review of the petition and the cited effects, no quantitative data was included to support the petition," Buitenwerf said.
Buitenwerf recommended denying the EAW, but to continue with the wetland inspection process.
"In the end, we expect the developer to meet the standards we've set," Buitenwerf said.
In other environmental services action Wednesday, commissioners:
??Authorized a request for vacating a part of Cotillion Drive to accommodate the plat of Cotillion Acres.
Buitenwerf said the problem originated from an erroneous survey. The resulting lots on the west side no longer meet minimum acreage requirements.
The developer, Walsh Forest Products, owns all the land impacted by the move and requested the vacation.