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Perkins Lake development delayed after citizen petition prompts vote on environmental assessment

This aerial map, provided by Planning and Zoning Administrator Bill Kleindl, shows the property along Perkins Lake, including the location of a neighboring residential home. The area in yellow is the location for the proposed seasonal campground and the area in red shows the proposed overnight campground.

MORRIS - A proposal to develop a commercial site on Perkins Lake has been halted until the Stevens County Board of Commissioners votes to decide whether an environmental assessment for the property is necessary.

A scheduled Planning Commission meeting on July 12 to consider a conditional use permit request from B&H Holdings, the current owners of 45572 140th Street in Donnelly (the former Luther Crest Bible Camp property), has been cancelled until the board considers the Environmental Assessment Worksheet request from the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board.

According to a letter from the EQB, no government approvals can be given on a project at the Perkins Lake property until the Board of Commissioners determines whether there is a need for an EAW, halting B&H Holdings' plans until that decision is made.

In a letter to the Planning Commission, Stevens County Environmental Services/Planning and Zoning Administrator Bill Kleindl explained that an EAW is designed to provide a brief analysis and overview of the possible environmental impacts of a project, and help determine if a more in-depth assessment is needed.

The requirement to consider whether an EAW is necessary was prompted by citizen petition signed by 165 Minnesota residents. Any resident in the state of Minnesota can sign a petition to request an EAW, and the request must include the environmental concerns of the project. The petitioners' representative, Michael O'Reilly, owns land that is surrounded by the proposed commercial development.

In filing the petition, the petitioners argued that they have concerns about the noise that will be issued from gatherings at the property; the impact the development will have on both Perkins Lake and Middle Pomme de Terre Lake in terms of erosion, fish and boat traffic density; and the impact on ground water and wildlife in the area.

The Minnesota Administrative Rules the Board of Commissioners will consider when making their decision outlines a number of situations in which an EAW is either mandatory or exempt, and offer guidelines for deciding if an EAW is necessary for a project that doesn't fall into either of those categories.

The board will have up to 30 working days to make a decision about the EAW, after which they will need to provide a record of the decision to both the petitioners' representative and the EQB.

Kleindl said that he did not know when the board would act on this issue.

"At this point, we have to determine the merits of the issues listed in the petition, prepare a proposed findings of fact and prepare a draft resolution prior to reaching an official decision," Kleindl said.