A proposed 14-unit RV campground on the east side of Big Toad Lake was rejected by a 3-2 vote of the Becker County Board Tuesday, Aug. 20.
“We just wanted a small RV park,” said property owner Richard Laine, who appeared at the meeting with his wife, Dana, and a hand-made map that included colored push pins. The couple had operated a dairy farm on the site. “We’re closing in on retirement and our farm needs some type of revenue,” he said. “We’re the third generation -- it’s been in the family since 1910.”
The proposal included large lots of 3,500 to 5,600 square feet (the minimum required by ordinance is 2,500 square feet) as well as a 21-slip dock system, which, under the convoluted county zoning system, would have actually meant 14 slips, each with a boatlift. (One slip with one boatlift counts as 1½ slips. Go figure).
Safety was the primary reason cited for opposing the project, since the main part of the campground is separated from the lake by County Road 117, and opponents argued that the narrow stretch of land near the lake wouldn’t be safe. Kids wouldn’t be able to resist going to the lake, and could get hit by a car, commissioner Barry Nelson said.
It’s not unusual for cars to go 55 mph on that stretch of gravel road, which is set to be paved in the next few years, said Becker County Recorder Patty Swenson, who lives in the area. She was one of a half-dozen people from the Toad Lake area who opposed the project and urged the board to follow the recommendation of the County Planning Commission, which narrowly rejected the proposal on Aug. 15.
The Toad Lake Town Board supported the project, and owner Doug LeSage of the nearby 49-unit Bambi Resort also spoke in favor.
“Safety is the big issue,” said opponent Clark Lee, who lives near the proposed campground. “The Planning Commission held two hearings on the proposal, they have visited the site, I ask you to support your planning commission,” he told the board.
In the end, the project was shot down, with commissioners Nelson, Larry Knutson and Ben Grimsley voting against it and commissioners Don Skarie and John Okeson voting in favor.
In other action Tuesday:
- After months of footwork, approved a motion to petition the Minnesota Board of Soil and Water Resources to give Becker County its seat back on the Wild Rice Watershed District Board. The county lost its authority to appoint a representative in 2006, when the seat was given to Mahnomen County. The county will argue that accurate population and geographic data shows that it should regain the seat.
- County Emergency Manager Craig Fontaine adds safety coordinator to his responsibilities. His position will be expanded from half-time to three-quarter time, at an additional annual cost in salary and benefits of $15,318. The county will also contract with SafeAssure Consultants Inc. of Willma for $11,642 a year to provide OSHA compliance recommendations, programs and training. Fontaine will serve as the county’s liaison to the company. Funding for the changes will come from about $41,000 a year that was going to the county safety position prior to retirement.
- The county agreed to lease VESTA software for the enhanced E-911 system (which includes the ability to text to and from dispatch) for about $20,000 a year for five years. The cost is about a third lower than a competing bid from Solacom. The county is mandated to make the improvements.
- The county will get a raise from $55 a day to $60 a day (over two years) in state funding for prisoners held in the county jail under a state work program.
- Agreed to pay the low bid of $4,653 (at the University of Minnesota Veterinary School) for dental work for K-9 Cooper, who lost his two lower canines after he latched onto a deputy in a “bite suit” during a demonstration recently at the Becker County Fair.
- Approved the purchase of a new transit bus, with a 10 percent local share and a 90 percent state-federal share.
- The Becker County Fair was a success for the 4-H program. Program coordinators Leigh Edwards and Gina Schauer reported that 424 young people are now enrolled in county 4-H, a 28 percent increase over last year. Ninety-six adults are now acting as screened volunteers, up 21 percent from last year. There were 354 animals exhibited by 4-Hers this year, and 201 young people exhibited at the fair. In all, 51 young people will represent Becker County at the Minnesota State Fair this year.