Two Sand Lake business representatives expressed concern that a proposed shoreland ordinance is too restrictive and could have a negative impact on shoreland property owners future expansion projects, including businesses.

“The goal is not to stop businesses from doing what they want to do,” said Skip Thomson, chairman of the Pine County Zoning board.

The representatives shared their concern about the proposed Pine County Shoreland Ordinance 2021-43 and the variance mitigation process with the board during the regular meeting on Thursday, Aug. 26.

Caleb Anderson, Pine County Land and Resource Manager, said the proposed ordinance came about due to the 2017 PC Comprehensive Plan. At that time economic development and protecting the county’s natural resources rose to the top of the county priority list. 

Anderson explained that property owners who intend to expand structures that do not conform to setback requirements from lakes and rivers must receive variances to do so. The contemplated variance mitigation requirements would only affect those property owners applying for such variances, said Anderson.

Shoreland is land located within 1,000 feet from the ordinary high water level of a lake, pond or flowage and 300 feet from a river or stream, according to the shoreland management ordinance website. 

County lakeshore owners responded to a survey in February and expressed a concern and desire for increased protection of area lakeshores, said Anderson.

Sand Lake Resort owner and attorney, Mark Lambert, said he was concerned about language in the ordinance and mitigation for the variance to the Pine County Board of Commissioners at their meeting in August. He suggested some language changes, some of which were implemented, said Anderson.

The commissioners sent the ordinance back to the zoning board to look at the language again. 

Moose Lake Golf Club General Manager, Josh Gamst, addressed the zoning board with concerns about the strict variance mitigation process, as did Danielle Hoffman. She is part of the legal team for Sand Lake Resort.

Sand Lake is located in both Carlton and Pine Counties. Carlton County already has a similar ordinance and variance mitigation in place, as does neighboring Aitkin County.

Hoffman said that the proposed variance is more restrictive than the state Department of Natural Resources model. 

“The biggest issue is the mitigation point system,” said Hoffman. She said the DNR model is more flexible and offers options to work with the land owner. There are several expansion projects planned for the resort in the coming years. 

Cities, counties or townships have the option to use the DNR model to help develop new ordinances or amend existing ordinances, according to the DNR website. The DNR model is not meant to be a freestanding set of regulations, but can be adopted as separate sections in existing zoning regulations.

“This is a very big change,” Hoffman said. “It could have a big effect on both business owners and homeowners.” 

Anderson said the goal of the variance is to allow homeowners and business owners the opportunity to make changes that are consistent with community goals by balancing the changes. For example, if a proposed expansion includes making a structure taller or larger, the owner can offer to screen the structure with trees. The proposed variance will then go in front of the zoning board for approval.

Anderson noted that the ordinance change will not affect many residents. He said the county has had one business request a variance in five or six years and estimates that the county may see two or three requests a year. 

The board voted to table the variance mitigation portion until the next meeting in September.

For more information or questions about the new ordinance or mitigation, contact Anderson at or call 320-591-1657.


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