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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

RV park construction underway

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 12/23/20

TOWER— Work on a controversial RV park here is now underway even as the developer faces continued uncertainty over sewage disposal, the status of a former dump, and possible legal action from …

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RV park construction underway


TOWER— Work on a controversial RV park here is now underway even as the developer faces continued uncertainty over sewage disposal, the status of a former dump, and possible legal action from neighbors.
It’s been a long time coming for Dave Rose, who purchased a nine-acre parcel along the East Two River back in 2015 with the intent of building what he’s dubbed an RV resort.
He’s faced a myriad of delays as city officials grappled with zoning questions and Rose’s occasional reluctance to follow rules to the letter. Rose has also faced anger from neighbors who worry that his commercial development will upset the quiet nature of the Mill Point neighborhood, home to some of the city’s most expensive homes and highest property taxes.
While his plans have undergone multiple revisions, Rose is now developing a final plan that includes 32 RV slots that he hopes to sell as part of a cooperative. Buyers would purchase a share in the co-op, which would give them rights to an RV site as well as a docking slip that would provide renters with direct access to Lake Vermilion. He said he hopes to have the project substantially completed by next June, although the prospects for attaining that goal are unclear.
Rose doesn’t have final approval for full construction, but the city’s zoning administrator, Mary Shedd, said she has given Rose permission to begin road construction and site clearing, as well as undertake some corrective actions that he’s been ordered to do. He can also remove piles of slash and bring in gravel to begin site leveling. Shedd noted that Rose does have some key permits in place that allow that preliminary work under the city’s zoning ordinance.
Rose does not have permission to begin digging trenches for water or sewer, at least at this point, according to Shedd.
That’s because Rose does not yet have a permit to connect to the municipal sewage treatment system operated by the Tower-Breitung Wastewater Board. Sewage treatment has been a sticking point for the project since the city of Tower connected its Hoodoo Point Campground to the municipal system in 2018. That decision by the city effectively used up the remaining treatment capacity and uncertainty over the amount of remaining capacity prompted the joint wastewater board to deny Rose’s recent request to connect.
“Right now, we’re pushing our luck,” said Matt Tuchel, who manages the joint water and wastewater system for both Tower and Soudan. Rose says the state’s Pollution Control Agency, which oversees municipal wastewater treatment facilities, has indicated there is sufficient capacity in the Tower-Breitung system for his RV operation. Tuchel doesn’t dispute that claim but said the system’s current flow does not account for anticipated new flows potentially coming soon. That includes about 6,600 gallons per day for an already permitted development at the city’s harbor and another 1,820 gallons of daily backwash from a planned new water plant.
Rose is continuing to push for the right to connect to the municipal system, but he said he has a backup plan, albeit a more expensive one, to use holding tanks in the event he isn’t allowed to hook up.
Adding complexity to the whole project is the fact that the RV park is being developed adjacent to a former city dump. The city took steps to remove the dump’s contents as part of a clean-up effort back in the 1990s, but the MPCA is requiring an array of testing to determine whether there’s remaining contamination that might be released if the area is disturbed. That’s a requirement of the MPCA’s Brownfield Program, to which Rose has applied to take part. Rose has completed some of that work, but the investigation into the matter continues, according to the MPCA’s Mark Koplitz, who works with the program. MPCA officials note, however, that only a small portion of the former dump site overlaps with Rose’s property. According to Shedd, it appears that only two of the 32 sites Rose has proposed would be considered part of the former dump site. According to Koplitz, the MPCA has no objection to Rose moving forward with any road clearing or tree removal on those portions of the site that aren’t within the borders of the former dump.
Rose is also facing a potential legal challenge from nearby residents of his property over his proposal to build an RV lot directly on top of a longstanding easement granted to some residents of the Mill Point neighborhood. “We have a lawyer and we’ll keep fighting it,” said Joan Broten, the unofficial spokesperson for residents of the neighborhood. “He’s illegally going to build on an easement, that you can’t block. We’re not just going to sit by while our rights are violated.”
Rose has acknowledged that his property includes an easement that allows some nearby neighbors the right to access the river through his property. But the current site plan places at least one of the lots directly within the easement, said Shedd, effectively blocking that access point.
Broten cites other concerns as well. She argues that the site is a poor one for Rose’s intended use and she points, as well, to Rose’s somewhat checkered financial history and predicts the project won’t be completed in a way that will be an asset to the community.
Rose disputes that and says he’s planning an attractive facility that will bring considerable numbers of seasonal residents to town, where they will likely contribute to the Main Street economy.