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County denies retaining wall on Bad Medicine lakeshore

A controversial motion that was tabled at the July 25 meeting of the Becker County Board of Commissioners was brought back for discussion at Tuesday's meeting, but was withdrawn before it came to a vote.

At the July 25 meeting, Commissioner Harry Salminen (seconded by Commissioner John Bellefeuille) made a motion to approve a conditional use permit application for a natural boulder retaining wall on Bad Medicine Lake.

Applicant Bruce Pearson was seeking to build a four-foot, natural boulder retaining wall on his property, in an area that was 47 feet from the ordinary high water mark of the lake -- in other words, within the shore impact zone, which is not allowed by the existing ordinance.

Salminen made the motion despite the fact that the Becker County Planning Commission, at its July 17 meeting, had voted unanimously to deny the conditional use permit.

Commissioners Barry Nelson and Larry Knutson had advised against the motion, while Commissioner Karen Mulari requested that it be tabled until the next regular board meeting so she would have an opportunity to visit the site before making her determination. The motion to table was approved.

At Tuesday's meeting, several Bad Medicine Lake residents gave testimony opposing the project.

Ray Vlasak, a Bad Medicine Lake Association board member and Forest Township supervisor, said he felt there was "nothing positive" about the application.

"My belief is that this lake has a higher calling than our (landowners') pleasure," he said. "I've received numerous calls about this (proposal) -- all negative.

"...Please make your decision from the lake's perspective... it should have priority."

Another lake resident, Roger Olson, pointed out that much of the value of property on Bad Medicine Lake is based upon its "unique natural beauty" -- and if too many variances to the existing zoning ordinance are granted, it will compromise that value.

Ultimately, he said, the commissioners would be "shooting yourselves in the economic foot" by approving the motion.

"In my opinion, I could not agree more with the speakers... the sole purpose of this variance would be for the convenience of the landowner," said Commissioner Nelson. In fact, he noted, it would actually have a negative effect on water quality.

"I see no good reason to allow this," he added.

Though he ultimately withdrew his motion to approve the permit, Salminen defended his earlier position by noting that he felt for Pearson's plight in having spent $2,100 in engineering expenses and application fees, only to find out later that his application had "no chance" of being approved because it violated pre-existing rules.

Salminen then made a motion (again seconded by Bellefeuille) to deny the permit, which was unanimously approved by the board.

Later in the meeting, the board approved a resolution authorizing the Becker County Economic Development Authority to borrow $1.4 million for the purpose of financing the construction of the West River Town Homes complex. This 12-unit permanent supportive housing complex will be built to house families with minor children that have experienced long-term homelessness.

The board also approved an additional 2007 appropriation of $21,248 for the Lake Agassiz Regional Library System. It was determined by the Minnesota Department of Education/State Library Services that an in-kind contribution from the county of $25,000 toward the library's heating costs in 2006 was not an appropriate contribution.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454