Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Shawn Jansen
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Windemere discusses new comprehensive plan


March 28, 2019

The Windemere Township Board of Supervisors accepted delivery of the comprehensive plan at their March 14 meeting, though they were not willing to go so far as to adopt the plan as it was presented.

Cindy Carlson, a resident who worked on the plan and was appointed to the planning commission during the meeting, said the plan incorporated feedback from the public and was the result of nearly a two-year process.

“We currently have one ... we’re just kind of looking at tweaking it to represent what has changed in 10 years since the last comprehensive plan was approved,” said Carlson. “I’m hoping you approve it. It won’t change anything about how you do business until the board decides which aspects of the changes you want to work on.”

Board chair Steen said, “I think it was more than just a tweak. This plan appears to be quite different from the other one. So did you use the other comp plan as a basis?”

Carlson asked, “What do you think is so different?”

Steen said it appears to be almost a whole change of ordinances and not a comp plan, with very specific recommendations.

Bill Weber of Weber Community Planning spoke on behalf of the plan, the planning commission, and the 24-person committee he worked with on it. He said they looked at the areas that were causing problems.

He said major differences had to do with protecting natural resources and rural scenery, specifically water quality and water’s edge quality. Weber also said the plan seeks to administer regulations consistently.

Weber said one change is suggestions regarding water-oriented structures, or boat houses, being set back, uninhabitable and limited in size.

Another is dealing with minimum lot sizes, recommending those minimums be enlarged based on protecting rural character and resources.

Steen said, “First of all, they’re not suggestions. You use a lot of terminology such as will and shall.”

Weber said, “We were writing it as if we were the board members ... This is a policy guide ... Everything in here is a recommendation.” He added they could soften the language if needed.

Supervisor John Wesely asked about the recommendation to limit a new farm to five head of cattle. “I’m not sure what the reasoning behind that is even.”

Later discussion revealed the limit had to do with feedlots and how animals are counted in animal units.

“And also with the 20-acre thing ... I’m not sure I have the ability to keep someone from giving his son 10 acres of land on the back of the 40 acres to build a house.” Wesely said he figured it had to do with limiting the population in the rural areas.

Wesely said, “There’s a lot of things in there that tend to be restrictive, which is what happens when you pass any ordinance ... For myself, I’ve got to be very, very careful when I start restricting somebody’s lifestyle or desires ... that’s why people come up here, to get away from those controls.”

Carlson said, “The other side of it is ... there are 400 dwelling units on Sturgeon Lake alone ... the population on Sturgeon Lake alone exceeds what the projection was for 2020 ... There is more pressure on the land and the lakes and the natural resources here than people realize.”

Carlson explained the committee tried to strike a balance between protecting natural resources, property rights and property values. She said the committee discussed issues and potential issues so as to help the board be proactive. One area discussed that needs such direction is with vacation rentals by owner, or VRBOs. She added that the committee based the plan elements on what has been successful in other townships.

Weber said they recommended in the agricultural area to increase the minimum lot size from five to 10 acres. Weber said current parcels are bigger than 10.

Weber said no changes were recommended for the lakefront lot sizes.

Weber said they recommended increasing the unsewered minimum lot size from less than one acre to two acres so as to accommodate the need to separate a well and septic by required distances.

In the forest management area, they recommended going from five to 10 acres, and for special protection areas they recommended increasing from 10-acre to 20-acre minimum lots.

Weber said the committee had heard no negative comments on the suggested lot sizes thus far.

Wesely said he wished there were more landowners compared to lakeshore owners represented on the committee. Carlson said they had some initially.

Wesely said he wanted to have the board meet with the planning commission to go through the plan more thoroughly.

They decided to wait to fill the supervisor vacancy before scheduling that meeting.


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