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WAPOA explores formation of lake improvement district

In light of the recent discovery of zebra mussels on the Whitefish Chain, the Whitefish Area Property Owners Association (WAPOA) is exploring the possibility of forming a Lake Improvement District (LID).

WAPOA president Dave Fischer said by phone Tuesday, Aug. 13, that WAPOA met with members of city councils and township boards from each of the cities and townships surrounding the chain Aug. 7 to discuss how to proceed with a plan for dealing with AIS.

The three cities and three townships that surround the chain are Crosslake, Fifty Lakes and Manhattan Beach, and Ideal, Timothy and Jenkins townships.

Fischer said WAPOA is in the preliminary stages of looking into establishing an LID. An LID on the Whitefish Chain would put a tax on the residents on the lake, and the money could be used to fight AIS.

Fischer presented the idea to the Crow Wing County Board on Tuesday morning, Aug. 13. He said the board’s reaction to the plan was mixed.

In a letter to Crow Wing County Land Services Supervisor Chris Pence, which was also provided to the county board, Fischer stated that currently only about one-third of property owners on the Whitefish Chain are members of WAPOA.

“We believe we must turn to a bigger — and more equitable and ongoing funding mechanism: a lake improvement district,” Fischer’s letter stated.

Crow Wing County’s laws, which act in addition to state statutes on LIDs, say that “a 60 percent ‘super majority’ of property owner support is intended for establishment of an LID.”

The state’s laws require only a simple majority for the formation of an LID.

In his letter, Fischer called this a “Herculean task” and requested that the board forego the need for the petition containing 60 percent of property owners’ signatures. The letter suggested that this be the policy for all the larger lakes in the county.

Crow Wing County Commissioner Paul Thiede, who represents the Whitefish Chain area, said later Tuesday that the board was not very receptive to approving an LID by resolution without the 60 percent approval of property owners. He said the 60 percent requirement is a policy the board developed and is comfortable with.

Thiede said he suggested holding a hearing on the matter, but the idea died due to lack of support.

“Now they (WAPOA) need to get the signatures or have some other proposal,” he said.

Thiede said information WAPOA presented at the meeting showed the average LID expense to a household is $125, but that WAPOA was thinking in terms of $40-$50.

By phone, Fischer stressed that the process is in its very early stages, and said no further meetings with representatives from neighboring cities or townships have been planned. He said the next step would be gaining support from local government entities.

“This is exploratory,” Fischer said of the potential for an LID. “It’s just in the very preliminary stages of — would this be possible for the Whitefish Chain?”

Crow Wing County currently has eight LIDs, including districts for Ossawinnamakee and Kimble lakes.