County board halts private road development while study underway

Residents aren’t always aware of the status of a road when they purchase a home, officials said, which can cause problems when it comes time to complete snow maintenance and general upkeep.

Crow Wing County commissioners listen to County Administrator Tim Houle, second from left, Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, during a county board meeting. Screenshot / Chelsey Perkins

Crow Wing County will not entertain applications from developers seeking permission to build subdivisions with private roads in Unorganized Territory for at least a year.

The moratorium gained unanimous approval from county commissioners Tuesday, Aug. 10, amid mounting concerns over future maintenance headaches for residents living along substandard roadways.

Over the years, county officials said there’ve been a number of examples of the county — acting as the township government for the First Assessment District, more commonly known as Unorganized Territory — refusing requests from residents to take over maintenance of private roads because they don’t conform to standards expected by the highway department. Residents aren’t always aware of the status of a road when they purchase a home, officials said, which can cause problems when it comes time to complete snow maintenance and general upkeep.

Crow Wing County environmental services supervisor Jake Frie presents information on a preliminary plat application from Barbeau Road Estates Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, to county commissioners. Screenshot / Chelsey Perkins


“We’re seeing those applications coming more frequently,” said Tim Houle, county administrator. “There are a lot of private roads that already exist in the First Assessment District. … Because there is already private roads, this is not what I would term a life or death matter. It has the potential for us to improve and we need a little bit of time for us to study the issue in order for us to improve what we have in our zoning ordinance.”

“We really need a timeout in order to be able to take the necessary time to study these things,” added Commissioner Rosemary Franzen, one of two commissioners who represent Unorganized.

RELATED: Who's going to plow? Private road in proposed Crow Wing County housing development spurs scrutiny of requirements
Before putting a temporary stop to this kind of development, however, the board approved one last plat it tabled last month : Barbeau Road Estates LLC, which is set to include 17 2.5-acre lots for homes and three common lots for open space, totaling 78.2 acres along a private road called Piper Lane ending in a cul-de-sac off Barbeau Road.

Although the private road is paved, a small study conducted by the highway department since commissioners tabled a decision on the plat revealed the road does not meet standards in four areas. The road is too narrow by 2 feet, for one, and it also lacks ditching for drainage, does not have shouldering placed and does not have a right of way sufficiently cleared of trees and other vegetation.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Chad Conner from Widseth, the authorized agent for the development, along with the developer Craig MacDonald explained the properties would include covenants addressing the fact the homes are located on a private road, and a homeowners association would include a cost-share fee for road maintenance.

Seated in the front row of the gallery in the Crow Wing County Board room, Chad Conner of Widseth, left, and Craig MacDonald provide more information Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, on a planned housing development called Barbeau Road Estates. Screenshot / Chelsey Perkins

“People understand buying into this thing that this is a private road,” Conner said. “There’s a lot of private roads in the county that don’t have that much protection.”


MacDonald told commissioners he wanted to avoid taking down what he described as quality trees in building the private road.

“It’s a tradeoff. There’s no question, it’s a tradeoff,” Houle said. “ … We work hard to try to maintain that look and feel, and build roads that are safe. It’s a tradeoff.”

Houle warned Conner and MacDonald that a planned second phase of the development, which involves twin homes in an outlot, would likely be delayed or perhaps squashed altogether, depending on the results of the study and changes made to ordinances.

“You’re listening to the conversations, you may want to rethink that plan,” Houle said. “If the board passes a moratorium, we would not accept an application for Outlot A as it is currently shown, because it would be on a private road. … What I’m suggesting is to try to accommodate what they’re after here.”

Commissioner Paul Koering said he would support the Barbeau Road Estates development but not any future applications proposing private roads.

“I’m just trying to protect these … people that buy lots,” Koering said. “They’re paying taxes, they might as well have a township road and have it plowed and maintained, because that’s what they’re paying taxes for.”

Commissioners offered unanimous approval to both the preliminary and final plats of the subdivision, along with approval of the moratorium.

In other business, the county board:


Authorized applying for a grant from the Clean Water Fund to cover the costs associated with sealing abandoned wells within the Pine Watershed. Land services sought approval for the move as part of fulfilling objectives in the Local Comprehensive Water Management Plan along with the One Watershed One Plan effort for the Pine Watershed.

“Unused and abandoned wells can provide a direct path for surface water runoff, contaminated water, or improperly disposed of waste to reach an uncontaminated groundwater source,” the request for board action stated. “Properly sealing these wells is one of the most important things landowners can do to protect our groundwater.”

The county sealed 88 wells in 2019-20 using $21,170 in grant funds awarded through the same program.

Approved a grant agreement with the Minnesota Department of Corrections for programming encouraging alternatives to incarceration. According to the request for board action, Crow Wing was one of three counties selected by the Minnesota Legislature to receive funding for programming for nonviolent substance abusing clients on supervised release or probation who have committed technical violations. The grant is $320,000.

Approved a final payment to Traffic Marking Services Inc. for pavement markings on county highways 10, 11, 30, 31, 36 and 37 and county roads 124 and 148. The final contract amount was $124,865.63, or 4.9% more than the original estimate.

Approved a temporary on-sale liquor license application from the Brainerd Jaycees for Aug. 19-22 at Brainerd International Raceway.

Approved the hiring of Shannon Mehr, customer service specialist in land services, and April Mileski, accounting technician in community services.


CHELSEY PERKINS, community editor, may be reached at 218-855-5874 or . Follow on Twitter at .

Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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