Our Opinion: Moratorium on shoreline development a good call by Crow Wing County

It’s important the county has the right rules in place to protect vegetation and wetlands, which in turn protect fish and wildlife, in and around our lakes.

Brainerd Dispatch editorial

Crow Wing County’s recent move toward a temporary halt to certain shoreline developments in an effort to bolster its regulations was the right decision.

The board’s decision, unanimously made March 22, asked county staff to prepare a resolution for a yearlong moratorium on development within alternative access lots, which provide a route to public water access for parcels that would otherwise be stymied by protected vegetation, wetlands or other critical fish or wildlife habitat. The board’s vote included an April 12 public hearing in front of the county board.

The issue was brought forward by Commissioner Bill Brekken, who noted two proposals to build a shared boardwalk across wetlands and shallow areas to allow access to docks in deeper waters on Pelican and Big Trout lakes.

The key to the issue is the danger posed to critical habitat. It’s important the county has the right rules in place to protect vegetation and wetlands, which in turn protect fish and wildlife, in and around our lakes.

We understand living on a lake — or at least living near a body of water and having direct access to it — is desirable. It’s one reason many people want to live in the Brainerd lakes area. But there has to be a point at which developing on and around our lakes and rivers is no longer feasible or practical from an ecological standpoint.


We can’t say that’s where our lakes are at now but we’d hate for it to get to a point, where our only recourse in hindsight is to regret the decisions that weren’t made. That’s why we are in favor of better defined rules from the county. We can’t keep crowding in on lakeshore and expect it not to have an impact on our waters.

Before the county board’s decision, County Administrator Tim Houle sought to drill down to the types of development to which a potential moratorium would apply: proposals encroaching on someone else’s property rights, proposals encroaching on someone else’s riparian rights and proposals including structures running parallel to the shoreland impact zone.

Crow Wing County can also use Cass County as a guide. Cass County lays out several requirements associated with access lots , including title covenants, joint ownership, centralized facilities, evaluation of land suitability, screening of parking areas or storage buildings, approval of vegetation management plans, impervious surface limitations and stormwater management standards. Crow Wing County’s land use ordinance, by contrast, defines alternative access lots but provides no additional guidance or regulation.

These lakes belong to all of us, so it should be in everyone’s interest to make sure we cause as little impact, do as little damage, as possible going forward. It can be likened to the aquatic invasive species problem lakes all over the state are facing — too much harm can ultimately ruin it for everyone.

The Brainerd Dispatch Editorial Board members are Dispatch and Echo Journal Publisher Pete Mohs, former Dispatch Publisher Terry McCollough, Dispatch Editor Matt Erickson, Dispatch Managing Editor Renee Richardson and Echo Journal Editor Nancy Vogt.
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