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Group Gathers for Campground Hearing

The North Pine Government Center was packed Thursday night for the February 24, Pine County Zoning Board meeting, where they discussed the RV campground being proposed on the east side of Cross Lake in southern Pine County by Luke and Leslie Hegge.

In the application for a conditional use permit (CUP), the project would offer up to 70 campsites along with a fishing pier and boat dock with up to 12 slips.

Land & Resource Manager Caleb Anderson noted at the start of his presentation that they had learned an environment assessment worksheet (EAW) is needed to be completed to consider the application complete. Until the EAW was done, they would have to wait to approve the application.

Anderson said they learned this after scheduling the public hearing; however, they decided to still hold the hearing so Hegge could explain the project and neighbors and community members could express their concerns and opinions on the project.

Luke Hegge addresses the crowd.

Luke Hegge used his time before the board to address concerns he saw posted on social media about the project. Hegge said he purchased the property about a year ago to build a lake home. He planned to sell the remaining lots to help offset his investment.

While renovating the farmhouse on the property last summer, Hegge said he and his family fell in love with that section of the lake.

"In the process, we decided if we sold all eight of those (lots) we would lose control over that bay - somebody else buys those lots, they build a house, they put docks in, they invite their friends, and they put ten boats on each dock, I can't do anything about it," said Hegge.

Hegge went on to say that talking to his clients as a real estate agent and Pine City resident gave him the idea to offer a seasonal campground for area snowbirds have a place that is affordable to stay.

To further quell any concerns, Hegge said that he and his family would be living on the property to maintain the campground and make sure guests of the campground treat the area well.

"If they're not treating the lake properly, the property that borders my lake house, if they are not respecting it, they are not welcome back."

Over a dozen community members spoke during the public hearing following Hegge's statement. Most who spoke were against the project, citing concerns ranging from traffic safety to the potential impact that a campground of this size could have on Cross Lake.

Ed Houdek, who said he lives a mile away from the proposed project, stated that he's totally against the campground.

"I'm against it totally," Houdek told the board. "It's going to be an eyesore from Highway 9 and 10 unless you put trees to cover everything up."

Houdek went on to talk about traffic safety around that area, claiming that drivers rarely go the speed limit. He said that whether you add a speed reduction or not that no one will follow the speed laws in that area. This sentiment was echoed by others who spoke during the hearing.

Additional boat traffic on Cross Lake was another concern raised by those in attendance. Bill Casby complained that area public boat launches are already packed on the weekends. He said that adding 70 additional sites near the lake would make Cross Lake unusable for local anglers.

Haley Krautbauer had issues with the potential noise pollution that would come with having a large group of people over the summer. She proposed a series of what she called compromises if the campground was built that included quiet hours, banning ATVs/UTVs, and no pets allowed at the campground.

Not all of those in attendance were against the campground being built.

Terry Rothenbacher was all in favor of the campground.

"I'm a supporter of Luke's project. I think we need more diversity," Rothenbacher said. "Just because I've got fancy nice home on the lake, somebody that can only afford a $20,000 trailer shouldn't be able to enjoy that? I've heard that for a lot of my neighbors and it really bothers me."

His approval was followed by concerns over additional developments around the lake and a lack of traffic safety. He would like to see some sort of walking trail or other improvements to make the area safer for both drivers and pedestrians.

Joe Norring also spoke in favor of the development saying residents cannot pick and choose who uses the lake. He also sees the addition as important growth that would benefit Pine City businesses.

In a statement following the meeting, Luke Hegge said he also shared concerns about road safety but felt inadequate roadways should not stop development.

"It (roadway) needs to be widened and traffic needs to be slowed down," Hegge told WCMP. "However, the road being insufficient now is not a reason to stop development. Sometimes development like this is what it takes to correct an existing problem."

Ultimately, the Pine County Zoning Board voted to deny the application for the CUP based on the fact that RV parks are not listed as an applicable conditional use for areas zoned Residential Recreational. According to Caleb Anderson, the previous precedent from the three other RV parks in Pine County are located in areas zoned in a Water Oriented Commercial District.

Despite having the CUP application denied, the Hegge's can request to have the property rezoned as Water Oriented Commercial and apply again for the CUP.

The Pine County Zoning Board (pictured from left to right): Nancy Rys, Les Orvis, Ryan Clark, Susan Grill, Dirk Nelson, Skip Thomson, and Patrick Schifferdecker.

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