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River Hills gets OK to add 32 slips at marina

More of those staying at River Hills RV Park will have the opportunity to have a boat in its marina now.

The Detroit Lakes Planning Commission approved River Hills owners Ken and Helen Foltz's request to amend their conditional use permit from 28 to 60 slips in their marina.

At Wednesday night's meeting, there were arguments for and against the addition, citing the extra boat traffic and the spread of invasive species as the main concerns.

"Boat traffic is a moot point because (boat users) can still use the tram," Meadowland Surveying's Scott Walz said.

The same amount of boats will use the water system, it's just a matter of if they park the boats in the marina or on land, he said.

"It's a myth that it will add boat traffic," Jeff Krueger agreed.

Bruce Imholte, who serves as an alderman on the city council, said he was there Wednesday evening as a lake resident of nearly 30 years, not a city official.

"This isn't just a five or 10 year decision," he told the planning commission. "It's a 50 to 60 years or more decision. It's the future. Everyone wants access to the lake, but that impacts the lake."

Imholte raised one of the biggest concerns, echoed by several others, which is controlling aquatic invasive species. He suggested having the Foltzes install a boat washing system to rise off boats coming from other waters.

"I'm very aware of the invasive species," Ken Foltz said, as he lives on a lake himself.

He said that if boats are able to stay in the marina, they are less likely to travel to another lake. But, if they stay on a trailer, owners are more likely to take them to other lakes since they are already loaded up and ready to go.

Several people who couldn't make the meeting sent letters opposing the expansion, including Todd Hamre, who reiterated the concern of spreading invasive species.

"A lot of us were surprised and disappointed when the original marina (permit) was granted," he wrote. It was originally approved a few years ago under the ownership of Patrick Onstad.

"River Hills should be glad they have their 28 slips," Hamre added.

Many of the letters and those who stood to speak Wednesday said they respect the Foltzes and wanting to grow their business, but they were still opposed to the expansion.

"I have the same issues (of traffic) now as I did when the project began, although now my concern is even higher," resident Dan Labat said via a letter. "I can imagine that by increasing the number of boat slips the desirability of the residential lots will increase and thus the number of residents will increase."

"We're beyond a few slips," Krueger said of the increasing concern for invasive species.

Planning commission member Harry Johnston asked Foltz about the feasibility of having a pressure washer for boats to rinse off, and Foltz responded that he's more than willing to work with the commission on something like that.

He agreed in the end to put signs up at the marina, asking people to wash their boats, and the to put the pressure washer up near a shed where there is already access to a well.

He added that he's also fine with having the Department of Natural Resources come to the annual meeting and talk to those staying at River Hills about invasive species and to have literature available.

DNR Area Hydrologist Janell Miersch set a letter stating that the DNR wasn't in opposition to the expansion.

"As I understand the project, no changes will be made to the river's edge or the tram system," she wrote. "If plans change so the water is connected, the marina would then come under DNR jurisdiction as a water of the state."

Pelican River Watershed District Administrator Tera Guetter also sent a letter regarding the expansion and only expressed concern about stormwater treatment.

"The proposal is to expand the marina and occupy the area where the current treatment pond is located," she said. "The action will require a new treatment area to be constructed. This change will require a permit from the district."

Krueger said that allowing the Foltzes to have the extra marina slips would "really enhance the business to become more successful."

With that success, he added, comes more success for the city through taxes and bringing people to the community.

"A vote in favor is a vote to create jobs, increase tax money that comes into the city and create income for other businesses in town," Krueger said.

Dale Storey said residents fought the development in 2006 and lost, so he'd like to see it succeed since it's there now, "so it doesn't go to waste."

"The request is reasonable and fits well," Community Development Director Larry Remmen said. "It doesn't cause a problem."

Johnston asked Foltz if they'd be back in the future, asking for more slips. Not only is there no more space to fit more, Foltz said, "we'd be satisfied with 60."

The planning commission unanimously approved the request contingent on getting the required Pelican River Watershed District permits and having signage and a pressure washing station for boaters on site.

The request will now go in front of the City Council on March 8.