VERMILION LAKE TWP— High-end man caves may be coming soon to Vermilion Lake Township. The St. Louis County Planning Commission, on a 7-1 vote, has given the green light to a proposed facility …
VERMILION LAKE TWP— High-end man caves may be coming soon to Vermilion Lake Township. The St. Louis County Planning Commission, on a 7-1 vote, has given the green light to a proposed facility that would create up to 72 rental units that will be available for both the storage and repair of vehicles and equipment.
Construction on the development is expected to get underway next spring, with an initial facility of a dozen units, each providing about 1,000 square feet of storage and workshop space. The units will be heated and come with a full bathroom, and some with a separate upstairs loft or mezzanine. Project developer Gregg Hennum, a Lake of the Woods resort owner and realtor from Warroad, estimated the cost of constructing each storage building at about $1.2-$1.4 million and he may eventually build up to six 292 x 40 ft. buildings with a total of 72 units. Hennum said he plans to build the storage buildings in phases depending on interest in the units.
He said the concept of what he calls “high-end man caves” is already well established in parts of Minnesota where they’ve attracted plenty of interest, mostly from men who don’t have the space for a workshop or large garage at home. He said Lake Vermilion residents with small narrow lake lots, who can’t build a workshop space without running into zoning roadblocks, would now have the ability to rent a space close to the lake. The planned site is also close to existing snowmobile and all-terrain vehicle trails and could be used for storage and repair of those vehicles. The units would rent for significantly more money than traditional storage units, but would come with many more amenities.
Those amenities did raise concerns that the units could become occasional use apartments for some renters. That was a concern raised in correspondence that Vermilion Lake Township submitted in advance of the Sept. 14 meeting of the planning commission.
“It seems reasonable that having a full bathroom in each unit would enhance the likelihood of renters staying overnight or for a longer duration,” wrote township officials in a letter to commission. But Hennum said overnight stays will be prohibited as part of the lease and St. Louis County included a prohibition on both residential and commercial use of the units as one of the conditions of the Hennum’s conditional use permit. “At no point will people be allowed to stay overnight,” said Hennum.
Vermilion Lake Township officials, in their correspondence on the proposal, wondered how effectively Hennum could enforce the prohibition on overnight use given that he lives over three hours away. “How will incidents be addressed?” township officials questioned. “Will there be a local property manager or security officer onsite in a reasonable amount of time to address calls?”
The Timberjay did inquire with St. Louis County about how such a prohibition could be enforced, but did not hear back as of presstime.
The development is proposed for a roughly 32-acre site that Hennum recently purchased from the Jarecki family for $80,000. It’s located along Hwy. 169 just south of the Y Store and current access to the site is via a short road to the Lake Country Power substation, located on a small parcel across the highway from Como Oil and Propane. It’s unclear whether Lake Country Power will allow access through its property given the sensitivity and security needs of a power substation. If not, Hennum indicated he plans to develop an alternative access road closer to the Y Store on a former logging road.
Much of the 32-acre parcel contains wetlands, so that significantly limits the area that Hennum can develop. Higher ground on the south and east ends of the parcel will be the focus for the construction of the storage units as well as the proposed septic system, which has yet to be permitted. Details on the septic needs of the facility aren’t entirely clear.
Hennum also still needs to determine access and acquire easements, determine the amount of dirt work required and finalize the construction drawings.