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Board listens to homeowners' request

Crow Wing County commissioners heard a request Tuesday for something they couldn’t legally do.

Round Lake homeowners Kurt and Tami Martin asked to authorize the land services department to issue a permit, without a fee, to allow the construction of a deck and balconies to their home on Ojibwa Road.

The Martins contended county staff and allegations of violations regarding renovations to a beach house interrupted their timeline to build the decks and in the interim, the county’s regulations changed. As the issue came up during open forum and wasn’t published as an agenda item, the board could not take action. County Attorney Don Ryan told the board not to take his silence as agreement of the facts presented by the Martins.

Board Chairman Doug Houge said the commissioners would discuss the matter at a later meeting when the issue was on the agenda.

The land services department noted Martin’s impervious surface is currently at 30 percent, and by county regulation it cannot exceed 25 percent and then would need a stormwater plan and shoreline buffer.

Chris Pence, land services supervisor, said the shoreline buffer could be constructed between the house and the sand beach on the property.

But the Martins said the shoreline buffer was a reason they were seeking county board action and not taking the issue to the county’s board of adjustment, which hears variance requests. The Martins said that route was costly and they knew the shoreline buffer would be an issue and they didn’t want to lose the sand beach.

Construction on the house started in 1997. Martin said the issue with the decks started when a leaky roof on the beach house changed his building focus. Martin said he sent an email to the county in 2005 stating his opinion was repairing the leaking flat roof didn’t require a permit. That’s when Martin said a long-running dispute with the county began.

Years passed and in the end, the Martins rebuilt the beach house after taking it down to the concrete block and started over, creating a taller structure. Now Martin said, he wants to complete the decks he planned to build on the house in the first place. Pence said that request has to go to the board of adjustment and not the county board.

In other business, the board:

Met in closed session for about an hour regarding pending and threatened litigation.

The board did not release an opinion or next course of action related to the recent district court ruling of the county’s unilateral action stopping step wage increases representing an unfair labor practice.

At the end of 2011, as a three-year collective bargaining agreements expired, the county notified the unions it would not extend step increases — an incremental wage increase. Existing collective bargaining agreements stated if a new agreement wasn’t in place before the old one expired, all benefits remain in effect until a new agreement was concluded.

Jane Poole, of Andrew & Bransky, the Duluth law firm representing the unions, stated the unions “are pleased with Judge Hawkinson’s decision because it follows well-established law in Minnesota that a public employer’s unilateral freeze on wages violates the employer’s duty to meet and negotiate in good faith under (Public Employment Labor Relations Act.) This decision is in accord with the fundamental labor law principle that after a contract expires, the status quo remains in effect until the parties negotiate a new labor contract.”

RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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