Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Daisy Bay expansion approved

Marcus White
Posted 3/21/19

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 …

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Daisy Bay expansion approved

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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.

Comments

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Shelley

I would like to respond to the March 14, PC meeting and Marcus White's "Timberjay Daisy Bay Expansion Approval ," article published today. I stand by my concerns for pedestrian and bicyclist safety on the shoulder of County Road 77.

County Rd 77 corridor is a No-pass Zone due to blind hills and curves. The speed limit is 55, but many drive 60 miles an hour around the curves and up and down the hills. The Pier 77 mini-golf course and cafe is approximately 0.1 mile to the west on the same side of the road as the resort. During the summer, families may want to walk from the Resort on the highway shoulder to Pier 77 to play mini-golf, get ice cream and/or a snack, or bicycle to one of the 3 restaurant/bars for lunch, dinner, or to have a drink or two.

There will be more autos pulling mobile summer and winter ice castle homes, and boat and snowmobile trailers on the highway. Since the current septic system cannot be replaced, septic holding tank/ dump station service trucks will also be frequenting the steeply sloped single road on the property.

Many people driving east from Clover Point Road up the blind hill towards Pier 77 will often gun their vehicle to get to the top of the hill and around the left curve; especially when pulling a trailer. Most people don't drink and drive, but there are a few who do. A couple of years ago, an intoxicated driver sped off the road at Clover Point Road, shearing off posts, shattering mail boxes, and sending them along with mail out beyond the road shoulder into the woods. Whatever the reason, if a driver speeds or drives recklessly, I fear for future pedestrians and bicyclists on the County Road 77 shoulder.

Roger Skraba did repeatedly interrupt me as I spoke in the meeting. He asked Chair Sonya Pineo to cut me off. Ms. Pineo allowed me to continue. I maintained my position. Mr. Skraba maintained his position. He said that highway public safety was not an issue for permit approval. Ms. Pineo asked me to leave when I spoke out of turn and said, " I wish the Commission could make a decision between 0 or 52 units, and not just 0 or 52."

After I left, Marcus writes, "Pineo said it was not out of the ordinary to MnDOT come and do analysis. She questioned why this wasn't a condition in the staff report but erosion control was." County Planner Jared Ecklund said that MnDot typically "only looks at a project when additional entrances are being made, which is not the case with the Daisy Bay project."

Thus, my traffic concerns for pedestrian and bicycle safety on County Road 77 shoulder was turned into a drunk driving issue and invalidated by Mr. Straba and the commission. Moreover, given Mr. Ecklund's statement about why he thought MnDOT didn’t need to assess the entrance and access site before their approval; I am now concerned about the same pedestrian and bikes sharing the same steep road with vehicles with trailers and septic service trucks coming in and out of the property onto the highway. I still don’t know where the proper place was that I was to bring my concerns. . I learned that it wasn’t there.

| Thursday, March 21
Shelley

I wish The plan will change and next head to MnDOT, the MPCA, Department of Health,, and possibly the DNR,

| Thursday, March 21
Terri

Thank you Shelley for taking a risk and speaking out regarding this expansion. This could not have been easy for you. It’s people like you that will make a difference in the long run. I have learned quite a bit after reading all the comments. I hope one result of all this discussion is that residents pay closer attention to their local government/issues as these directly affect our daily lives and the “northern character” of Lake Vermilion. I really believe all this discussion will make a positive impact in Greenwood Township!

Friday, March 22
Scott Atwater

Thanks for your comments Shelley. I share your frustration and concerns. From my view it certainly looks like this game is rigged, I guess the anticipated tax dollars are too much for the county to pass up.

Friday, March 22
Shelley

Thank you Terri and Scott. Also to John Bassing and Lee Peterson and Mike Ralston with tons of knowledge and expertise, for posting on the February 20, 2019 " Timberjay County planners delay Daisy Bay vote" article by Marcus White comment site.

I want to tell you what I am still concerned about in regard to this.

I heard of the application permit submission after the 1st meeting on February 14. On February 19 or so, I stopped by Greenwood Township and picked up the packet of information that the SLC planning department sent to the Township.

There was something in it, and it is the biggest question I had, and still have. I would have liked to ask the applicant a question at the March 14 hearing, but commission hearing rules don't allow it.

Included in the packet of information was a January 2 SLC Planning and Community Development Site Map written on with black magic marker.

As I see it, the Site Map shows that the cup asks for permission to expand its 9 cabin's and 5 RV sites, to an additional 38 RV sites in a Tier 1 on the property presently owned by the resort. But, It also shows an west adjacent property owned by someone else, written on for "19 additional in Tier 2 and 17 more in Tier 3.

When I add it all up, 9 cabins plus the existing 5 RV sites, plus 38 more, plus 19 more, plus 17 more, it totals 9 cabins and 79 RV sites for a total of 88 units. What I see is a very large RV park site proposal along County Road 77 corridor. Almost as large as Hoodoo on a much smaller property.

If I then look at the January 29 SLC Staff Report , it states, "Commercial Planned Development standards allow up to 43 total RV sites on the property." But the report does not include the west adjacent property owned by someone else that includes the "19 additional in Tier 2 and 17 more in Tier 3."

The biggest question I had, and still have, and would have liked to ask the applicant at the March 14 hearing, is about my concern for future potential RV site additions of "19 in Tier 2 and 17 more in Tier 3." However, I learned that the public is not allowed to ask the applicant questions.

After the March 14 hearing, I called and talked with Greenwood township Chairman Mike Ralston. He has taken on the task of asking questions in regard to this issue. I found him to be as professional and caring as Lee Peterson and John Bassing.

In one of his posts, Mike writes, "Should the County Board make an indefensible decision the Board could, and should , weigh in with a formal response. " If there is something fishy as I say, or rigged as you say Scott, I trust Mike to ask the right questions and act accordingly.

Although, the answer to my question is yet to be determined, whatever the answer is, I am very impressed with the quality of people in our township. I have the same belief as Terri - that all the discussion on the Timberjay site will make a positive impact in Greenwood township.

I think all boxing gloves should come off in the Township and we should implore each other to focus and act in the best interest of the township.

| Friday, March 22