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Planning commission supports RV park expansion

The Park Rapids Planning Commission voted Monday, July 23 to recommend that the city council approve a plan to expand the Big Pines RV Park from 40 RV campsites to 70.

The Park Rapids Planning Commission voted Monday, July 23 to recommend that the city council approve a plan to expand the Big Pines RV Park from 40 RV campsites to 70.

Requesting a conditional use permit (CUP) for the project is developer Jay Echtenkamp with Pine Tree Partners, LLC.

According to the developer cover letter attached to the request, the Big Pines RV Park was established at 501 Central Ave. S. in the 1940s and has been licensed by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) to operate up to 70 RV campsites since 1972.

When he bought the property in 2005, Echtenkamp wrote, the facility's septic system consisted of PVC piping and, in places, garden hose leading to perforated 50-gallon drums. Echtenkamp removed this infrastructure and, in conjunction with a city program to secure municipal service easements across the RV park, connected water and sewer services to 16 campsites in 2007.

In 2012, the city council approved a CUP request to upgrade another 24 campsites with utility services, on the condition that future conversion of the remaining 30 licensed sites will require a new conditional use permit.

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Echtenkamp noted that the RV park's lot sizes, open spaces between units and setbacks from public roads and property lines are all at least double the size required by state guidelines. "My intention," he wrote, "is to upgrade the park into a first-class facility to attract seasonal guests to the Park Rapids area."

The commission adopted city staff's recommended conditions, including a 25-foot setback from the east property line, an approved lighting plan, documentation that the RV park complies with MDH requirements and an updated impervious surface calculation. The commission recommended the additional conditions that Echtenkamp obtain a site survey, correct the existing campsites to have a 10-foot side-yard setback and incorporate the same setback in the new sites.

Also discussed, but not adopted as conditions, was a proposal to have fence installed on the southeast property line to prevent RV park guests from crossing into a neighbor's yard, and adding pine trees at the northeast corner of the park.

Charles Street lot

Planner Ryan Mathisrud made a short presentation about a possible offer to donate two lots to the city along Charles Street, adjacent to Walmart.

"We discussed potential uses for those lots, if we would accept them as a donation," Mathisrud told the press on Tuesday. "We agreed to continue studying it and talk about it at the next meeting."

Among the possible uses of the property, the commissioners discussed developing a mixed-use area for future commercial and residential uses, studying its potential as a city well site and trading the land to a developer in exchange for land that would be better suited for a park.

Mathisrud stressed that no formal offer is in place yet regarding the possible donation.

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Green Step Cities

Local resident Carter Hedeen made a presentation asking that the city participate in the Green Step Cities program.

Mathisrud said the process would start with the city adopting a resolution to be a Green Step City and start taking steps to "make the community more sustainable, or a greener place."

Green Step Cities is a voluntary program with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, said Mathisrud. "It's basically a recognition for things that you're already doing that are green, and creating a group of people who would work toward additional steps to make the community greener."

The commission invited the Green Step Cities coordinator to make a presentation about the program.

The League of Women Voters hosted a Green Step Cities presentation April 19 in Park Rapids. "There seemed to be a lot of interest in pursuing that at that time," said Mathisrud.

The city planning commission's next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 27 on the lower level of the public library.

Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at rfish@parkrapidsenterprise.com or 218-252-3053.
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