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Letters to the Editor: June 30, 2012

And justice for all...

We find it intriguing that Dr. O'Reilly criticized the Stevens County Board of Commissioners for standing by their initial decision on the Zoning Ordinance Amendment. It is apparent to us that the only thing flawed in this process was Dr. O'Reilly's memory. He must have forgotten that the Planning Commission met with his wife during this publicly addressed meeting directly after we did. Furthermore, how else is the Planning Commission supposed to make a logical recommendation to the Board of Commissioners without seeing the proposal first hand?

It is also interesting that the "Good Doctor" recognized our Pledge of Allegiance in his closing statement at the last meeting. He quoted "With liberty and justice for all." Stating his injustice was partly due to financial reasons and was unable to afford court fees. However, his funds seemed to be readily available when threatening to sue over every other action proposed in his neighborhood in years prior. The only real injustice here is that the O'Reillys purchased their property next to an obvious resort area and are doing everything they can to selfishly and deceptively keep it from the "few" other 9,600 people in Stevens County while saving face.

We too recognize the Pledge of Allegiance. The four of us used to repeat it every morning in our classroom with George Graff, who happens to be another main supporter of opposition. It's clear to us now that when he taught us to work hard and follow our dreams, anything was possible, with the exception of those dreams being down the road from him.

So, where are we now? Well, that's a very good question. After tremendous support to move forward from many local residents of Stevens County, we have been told that our process to obtain Conditional Use Permits to rent out the pavilion, cabins, and "four" overnight campsites on our property would be put on hold, for an uncertain period of time. This is due to a petition started by the O'Reilly family for an Environmental Assessment Worksheet. The petition for an EAW was signed by 165 people, which consisted mainly of students and staff of the UMM, co-workers of George Graff, friends and family outside the county and also a few minors.

What is an EAW? An EAW is an environmental study typically done by a branch of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. These studies aren't uncommon when dealing with hog barns, turkey barns, or feed lots to determine the impact, if any, the project will have on the environment. In our case, trimming dead limbs from oak trees and mowing 10 acres of lawn have these 165 individuals alarmed. Although, we do appreciate their concerns and would like to thank them for obstructing our process in reviving and sprucing up this amazing piece of property. It is however unfortunate they did not take the opportunity to purchase this property themselves and maintain it the way they wanted to. Having said that, we would like to invite anyone other than the petitioners to drive by and admire our progress up to this point.

Thank you for your support!

B&H Holdings, LLC; Ben Hentges, Jon Backman, Jackie Hentges, Peter Hentges

EAW is advantageous to all

Thank you to all who signed the Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) petition for a thorough analysis to the proposed development of the old Luther Crest site at Perkins Lake. The 165 signators to the petition echos the concern shown at the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on this issue. The State through the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) has approved this petition, published the request in the EQB Monitor publication, and forwarded it to Stevens County for consideration. The County must decide now whether or not to require such an assessment.

By statute, because of the inclusion of plans for 30 seasonal RV sites, such an assessment should have been mandatory at the time of the initial zoning application. The April consideration by the Planning and Zoning Commission on rezoning the site - at which overwhelming opposition to the RV sites was ignored - legally should not have taken place until the assessment was completed. County officials had ignored this requirement. The subsequent verbal statement by the developers of intent to postpone application for a permit for the 30 RV sites, still left this aspect as part of a phased development, also requiring a mandatory assessment.

The above mentioned petition for an EAW was a response to the County's omission.

The County needs facts before approving permits for development. An EAW will help provide those facts.

Current plans for the site include use of the pavilion for up to 457 people and includes parking for 124 vehicles. Despite earlier statements in this paper by the developers to preserve the woods, they plan to use 9,900 square feet of the woods for just four "overnight" RV sites - originally proposed for outside the woods. In a preliminary survey, the current septic system in this flood plain area has been declared inadequate and non-conforming. The water table rises to within two feet of the surface at the highest points available. The septic system is also inadequate in size. Using Minnesota Pollution Control Agency estimates, the daily usage by a family reunion with 120 people would exceed the maximum capacity of the present system, with potential pollution of the lake and groundwater.

Facts are needed beforehand, before random development begins, to determine the magnitude of development that should be allowed. Such facts will enable the County to make an informed judgement on the above and related concerns so that the County can "Promote public health, safety, comfort, convenience and general welfare" (quote from County Board minutes). Such facts will also enable the developers to avoid any pitfalls that uninformed development might bring.

Thus an EAW is advantageous to all.

Again, thank you to those concerned people who signed the petition. 

Michael and Marie O'Reilly; Perkins Lake