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Dream of pavement for majority of residents on Carolyn Lane granted

After commissioners approved the resolution 5-0, County Engineer Tim Bray said the roadway would be added to the county’s construction plans and would be combined with other improvements planned to First Assessment District roads next spring as part of the same bid.

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Tony Smith shares his opposition to a resident petition to pave Carolyn Lane, a gravel road in the First Assessment District, during a Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021, Crow Wing County Board meeting. Chelsey Perkins / Brainerd Dispatch

A majority of those who own property on a gravel road in the First Assessment District will get the improvement to the blacktop they requested.

The Crow Wing County Board Tuesday, Oct. 12, unanimously agreed to proceed with the improvements sought via petition from 17 of 21 benefiting property owners along Carolyn Lane, which intersects with County Road 115/Ojibwa Road. The decision came following a public hearing on the matter, which commissioners considered in their capacity as the township board for the First Assessment District, otherwise known as Unorganized Territory.

By petitioning for improvements, property owners agree to be assessed for the cost of the approximately $82,000 upgrade, which divided equally is an estimated $3,905 per parcel.

“An overwhelming majority of us on Carolyn Lane, over 80%, have agreed to come together on this original petition, which includes everyone paying the same amount per parcel,” said Crystal Waagmeester during the hearing. “Everyone could come up with an argument on Carolyn Lane on why they don’t want to pay as much as their neighbor.”

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Tony Smith is one of the four property owners who did not support the petition as presented. Smith and the others in opposition live to the east of the main roadway on what, in practice, is a shared driveway. Smith appeared before the board at a meeting in July to express his concerns, arguing the right of way extending east from the L-intersection should have been accepted by the county back in 2010. That was the year when residents asked for Carolyn Lane to become a township road rather than remaining a private road originally built by a developer.

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Seventeen of 21 property owners along Carolyn Lane in the First Assessment District signed a petition in support of improving the roadway to pavement. Contributed / Crow Wing County

Smith appeared Tuesday as well, appealing to commissioners to consider his belief the petition was unfair to those whose properties do not directly touch Carolyn Lane. He said if the eastern portion of the road were included in the pavement plans, he and the others in opposition would support it. He also noted an assessment of his property value showed it would not increase with a paved road.

“I’m not saying we’re against this, it’s the petition in the way it stands right now,” Smith said. “It’s equally divided amongst everybody. Equal benefiting does not exist in my opinion.”

Commissioner Paul Koering responded to Smith’s point of view, stating he felt as though the resident was “splitting hairs.”

“If I look at that map, if you’re the first property when you come in there, how is it equal for him when he’s coming in that little bit? The person on the very end where the roundabout is, they’re the ones that are benefiting the most,” Koering said. “And you, that are coming out there, you’re still using a majority of that road. So when you say equal, I just don’t know how we can equalize it so it’s equal for everybody.”

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Carolyn Lane, which travels to the left in this Google Maps street view, is set to be improved in 2022 following a petition from those who own property along the gravel road. Contributed / Google Maps

Smith countered that the county wouldn’t ask people located 300 feet from Ojibwa Road to pay for improvements.

“The fact is, the tar’s going to come and touch their property. It’s not going to come anywhere near our property,” Smith said.

Koering noted he lives in southern Crow Wing County, but his tax dollars pay for improvements on roads he doesn’t need to use to get to Brainerd.

“And you pay for roads that are down in my district,” Koering said. “That’s just the way it works.”
Following the closure of the public hearing, Commissioner Bill Brekken made a motion to accept the petition and certify assessments to residents for the improvements.

“I know that Mr. Smith’s brought up some very good points and there’s some history here that makes this very complicated in regards to this,” Brekken said. “But I think everybody deserves that we move forward and have a decision made today.”

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Carolyn Lane intersects with County Road 115/Ojibwa Road in the First Assessment District. Contributed / Google Maps

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After commissioners approved the resolution 5-0, County Engineer Tim Bray said the roadway would be added to the county’s construction plans and would be combined with other improvements planned to First Assessment District roads next spring as part of the same bid. Bray noted residents would benefit from this packaging because of the economies of scale.

This is the first roadway improvement petition the board considered in five years, with the last two being Welton Road and Shellisa Lane in 2016. Commissioners agreed to the Welton Road improvements, which garnered a 71% approval rating among residents. Shellisa Lane, however, was not approved because the petition gained just 40% of property owners in support. That petition prompted commissioners to seek a change in county policy to only consider petitions with the support of 60% or more of those affected.

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Carolyn Lane is a gravel road intersecting with County Road 115/Ojibwa Road. Contributed / Google Maps

In 2014, the board adopted a policy noting as a township it would not consider accepting private gravel roads into township care unless pavement occurred first. Carolyn Lane was accepted as a township road four years before this policy change.

Recently, the board agreed to a moratorium on any new developer-built private roads in Unorganized Territory while ordinances are reviewed to determine how best to avoid the maintenance headaches they sometimes prompt.

CHELSEY PERKINS, community editor, may be reached at 218-855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at twitter.com/DispatchChelsey.

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 chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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