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Becker County Board of Adjustments does more than LaDuke infers

I am writing this letter to address the allegations directed toward me by Winona LaDuke in the Nov. 18 DL Tribune. I assume Ms. LaDuke chose this medium rather than a simple phone call to draw attention to what she felt was an injustice at the hands of the Becker County Board of Adjustments. However, I am not about to justify the denial of her variance application, due to the fact it was not a unanimous vote.

But, please allow me to set the table, so to speak, on how we address each and every variance request. One week prior to every hearing the board visits every location requesting a variance for that particular month. There are no "simple" requests for variances, as she would lead us to believe in her letter. They are requests from the county's official control, which in this case is the Becker County Zoning Ordinance.

The hearing agenda for the evening of Nov. 12 consisted of six variance applications, of which four were denied, one tabled and one approved.

Now Ms. LaDuke is convinced that I personally wielded a tremendous amount of influence toward my fellow board members by "swaying" their vote. Oh please. If you only knew how thorough yet objective my fellow board members are, you would think this somewhat humorous. Though I often give my opinion on a particular application, I vote only to break a stalemate.

This particular variance application called for the installation of solar panels measuring 10 feet wide and 15 feet tall, all mounted on an 8 foot pole less than 10 feet from the OHW on Round Lake. The shore impact zone on Round Lake is 50 feet, and the building setback is 100 feet from the ordinary high water mark. Seldom does this board favor any structure within the SIZ of any lake in this county. My comments at this hearing were not directed toward the necessity of this alternative energy source, but the location of these solar panels, as were two out of the four written letters on file from Ms. LaDuke's neighbors. I was not convinced at the tour of Ms. LaDuke's property, nor did she convince me during the hearing there were no location options for these panels other than the shore's edge. Yet Ms. LaDuke confuses subjectivity with my conviction.

Ms. LaDuke also quoted me in her letter, saying I "didn't think solar panels belonged amongst our tall sweeping trees and lakeshore in northern Minnesota." Well, she's not too far off. There's no doubt a considerable amount of open space is necessary for these panels to collect the sun's energy effectively, thus their popularity in Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming, South and North Dakota. There were no fewer than three different locations discussed between BOA members and Ms. LaDuke's contractor during our tour of her property, all of which were rebuked because of financial or aesthetic reasons. Two other locations were discussed with the contractor, one on the roof of the house and the other on a pole-like structure above the tree line. We were told emphatically neither would work. Nope, only down the hill next to the dock 40 feet inside the shore impact zone of one of the most beautiful lakes in northern Minnesota.

Well, I think that's enough information shared with the readers of this newspaper. My final comment is directed to you, Winona. I have absolutely no doubt of your sincere respect for the land and your stewardship for environmental action, but I do take exception to your assumption that this board cares little for Becker County's land and lakes. I invite you to join us on one of our tours in the spring of 2010.