VIRGINIA - The St. Louis County Planning Commission, on Thursday, unanimously backed a plan to expand an RV park at Daisy Bay Resort on Lake Vermilion despite boisterous opposition from neighbors of …
VIRGINIA - The St. Louis County Planning Commission, on Thursday, unanimously backed a plan to expand an RV park at Daisy Bay Resort on Lake Vermilion despite boisterous opposition from neighbors of the property.
The expansion would include up to 43 RV sites on the property as well as additional dock space and ice-fishing facilities. Christine Schlotec, who is proposing the project, has a purchase agreement to buy the longtime resort property from current owner Taren Neumann if the RV park plan is ultimately approved. Schlotec plans to operate the resort year-round, although the RV portion of the property would only operate seven months of the year.
The planning board had originally planned to vote on Schlotec’s plan last month but delayed the vote after a clerical error sent some meeting notifications to the wrong address.
Many at the commission meeting drew parallels between Schlotec’s plan and another recently-approved RV park plan at the BayView Lodge, although this time county planning staff were recommending an environmental assessment and a review by an engineer due to the steep slopes on the site. Schlotec called that request unfair, noting that such a review wasn’t required for the BayView case.
Senior Planner Jenny Bourbonais said that’s because the slopes at BayView are not as steep. Schlotec’s plan calls for portions of the RV park to be on land with as much as a 14-percent grade in some cases.
Schlotec said BayView has more elevation difference between the road and the lake than Daisy Bay. Planners, however, pointed out the locations of the slope were different.
Schlotec said the requirement was “putting the cart before horse” since there was no guarantee that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency or Department of Health would ask for an environmental or engineer’s review and it was not in the county’s jurisdiction to request one since state agencies generally were the ones to make the review request.
“She (Schlotec) wants to wait on whether the MPCA will want it (a report),” Bourbonais said. “I think what the applicant is saying that we will get the engineer’s report because of what other agencies may require.”
Bourbonais said the request for further review was an effort to leverage concerns raised by county staff and by letters submitted by concerned neighbors.
No one spoke in favor of the project during public comments, but a group of 10 families had banded together to air their grievances over the project.
Jerry Hoel spoke for the group.
“We don’t think it is a reasonable request to put this into a residential neighborhood,” Hoel said. “The project is designed to bring a maximum amount of revenue. The applicant is asking to change the resort from a mom and pop business to an RV park that will see a 900-percent increase in RV traffic. We understand that there is a law. We don’t think the point of the law was to change the nature of an operation from mom and pop resorts to RV parks.”
He pointed to a provision in the county’s conditional use permit ordinance requiring projects to be “in harmony with the neighborhood.”
Hoel also brought up the previous BayView permit when it came to residents’ concerns over screening of the RV park from view. He said unlike in the previous application, most of the trees would have to be removed from the Daisy Bay Resort to make room for RV sites.
He said too much focus was being put on the “Lake Vermilion experience” for people who don’t own property on the lake, and not enough attention was being put on the people who do own property. “You will be adding it for some, but you will be removing it from the people who are already there,” Hoel said.
Another resident, Shelley Padgett, said she was against the project because of public safety concerns. She said she was concerned about the amount of traffic the new RV sites would bring to County Rd. 77 which she said already had enough traffic. She also said she was concerned about an increase in drunk drivers, especially after damage done to properties several years ago by an intoxicated driver leaving another resort on the road.
Planning Commission member Roger Skraba questioned why the information on drunk drivers was related and requested that Chair Sonya Pineo cut Padgett off.
Padgett said her complaints were valid, while Skraba said drunk drivers were not at issue with the permit. Pineo allowed Padgett to continue but later asked her to leave the hearing after she spoke out of turn once public comments had ended.
Other issues raised by residents included increased smoke from campfires along with an increase of boater traffic creating an unsafe environment for swimmers on the bay.
Following the public comments, the board once again took up discussion.
Skraba returned to the subject of whether an environmental and engineer’s review was necessary.
“I am in the inclination that the engineering plan would come in at another level. I don’t think we need it,” he said.
On buffers and screening, board member Dave Pollack said he didn’t feel the permit needed to address it since the county already had strict ordinances in place to ensure those conditions were met.
Both Pollack and Skraba said there wasn’t a way that the county could control smoke from campfires and Schlotec said she doubted there would be a fire at every site each night.
On the topic of increased traffic, Pineo said it was not out of the ordinary to have MnDOT come and do an analysis. She questioned why this wasn’t a condition in the staff report but erosion control was.
County planner Jared Ecklund said MnDOT had typically only looked at a project when additional entrances were being put in place, which was not the case with the Daisy Bay project.
When Pineo called for a vote, the board members all approved of the conditional use permit. The plan will next head to the MPCA, Department of Health, and possibly the DNR, depending on whether Schlotec plans to move forward with adding more dock space.
The full county commission will vote on the project at a later date.