A development mixing condos described as “man caves” with multiple storage units is planned for a vacant lot near Highway 371 north of Baxter.

The once-wooded area consists of 14.78 acres along Moburg Lake, a small water body west of the highway and North Long Lake. The Crow Wing County Board approved a preliminary plat for the proposed mixed-use development Tuesday, May 12. Lakeview Condo Storage, as the development is referred to in application materials, is expected to include 10 residential units as part of a common interest community, while another 34 buildings would be commercial storage. A private road would wind through the property leading back to the residential units, set farthest back from the highway.

Environmental services supervisor Jake Frie told the board via a Microsoft Teams call the planning commission/board of adjustment unanimously recommended approval of the plat, although he noted board members expressed concerns about the septic system plans within the shoreland district of Moburg Lake. Frie said following the April 30 public hearing on the proposal, the developer changed from the original proposal of 10 holding tanks for each unit to a type 1 septic system, which includes a septic tank and drain field.

Frie suggested the board add this change as a seventh condition of the plat. Among those conditions is the implementation of a stormwater management plan before development begins on the property.

“That’s what they intend to do, and this isn’t any sort of last minute change that I’m presenting for you,” Frie said of the septic system condition. “I would ask the board to consider adding that condition so we can ensure that just adequate protection of water quality and development of that residential development occurs.”

The county board set the stage for this development March 10, when it approved a land use amendment requested by the Bement Family Trust to reclassify the property. Previously zoned as waterfront commercial, the change meant the portion closest to the highway was changed to commercial 2, while the remaining 5.6 acres was rezoned as residential shoreland. A sale of the property to developer Mike Anderson was recorded the day after that approval, according to county property records.

This isn’t the first mixed-use development of this type built by Anderson. Minutes from the development review team state he’s built similar facilities and units in Becker County, but under different rules and ordinances.

While there were no comments from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources or lake associations on the proposal, three comments representing the views of a number of neighbors in the area were not favorable. An email signed by four property owners cited confusion over what the development would be, concerns about the potential impact on shallow Moburg Lake — home to nesting waterfowl — and the desire for the completion of an environmental assessment worksheet. Although a petition is required to request such an assessment, the letter noted the stay at home order in place due to the coronavirus pandemic made it impossible to collect signatures.

Curt Johnson, who lives on Green Gables Road, stated neighbors were disappointed the lot was clear-cut of trees before any information was provided to those who live nearby.

“We would have hoped the developer would have given more consideration to the unique value of this natural area — both to our tax-paying residents and tourists, including those traveling the Hwy 371 corridor,” he wrote. “We are not confident, without the clear guidance and oversight from the Planning Commission, that the developer will act with due care in preserving the natural beauty and fragile ecosystem of this area.”

Frie said the planning commission considered the comments at its meeting and went on to issue the unanimous recommendation for approval.

Commissioner Bill Brekken asked Frie whether there were plans for any vegetation screening between the development and the highway. Frie said he didn’t believe so.

“Technically it wouldn’t be required to, because it’s not abutting an adjacent residential use,” he replied.

Brekken made the motion to approve the preliminary plat and Commissioner Rosemary Franzen seconded. The board unanimously supported the motion. A final plat must be presented for approval within one year.

In other business, the county board:

Approved two land use map amendments along Pine Beach Road.

The first amendment was requested by Donnie Berg to change the allowed use on a 6.54-acre parcel from commercial 1 to commercial/light industrial. The change will allow the operation of a welding business on the property, which wouldn’t be allowed under commercial 1 zoning. Commercial 1 covers areas adjacent to municipalities, while commercial 2 pertains to parcels within more rural areas.

The second amendment was requested by Mike Swarze of Mike’s Tree Co. concerning a property he owns adjacent to the site of the business. Swarze requested the map be amended to convert the property from rural residential 2.5 — meaning the minimum lot size allowed in that area would be 2.5 acres — to commercial 1.

Chairman Paul Koering asked for an explanation about why these two requests were different than one earlier this year on Pine Beach Road, ultimately denied by a majority of the county board. In that case, property owner Justin Rudolph requested a change from rural residential 2.5 to commercial 2, which would’ve allowed the installation of an outdoor storage lot as part of his landscaping business.

The planning commission recommended the county board deny that request, citing concerns about the location within a mostly residential area and the inability to limit any future businesses that may locate at the site. Rudolph already has two conditional use permits allowing him to operate the business on site and to build a commercial storage building.

Frie told the board while he didn’t want to speak for the planning commission, he felt this recommendation fell in line with the commission’s desire to encourage commercial development along the eastern portion of Pine Beach Road, while discouraging it along the more residential westerly portion.

Apportioned net revenues from the sale of tax-forfeited properties and timber in 2019 to funds within the county as well as to school districts, towns and cities in Crow Wing County. In 2019, the county earned $2,206,657.61 in revenues and expended $1,030,237.67 to care for its remaining properties. Net proceeds were $1,176,419.94.

Of this, half — equaling $588,209.97 — was distributed between the county general fund (40%), school districts (40%) and towns and cities (20%). Exact amounts to be distributed are based upon revenue linked directly to parcels located within individual taxing districts and apportioned by percentages established in state statute. The other half was allocated to the county recreation fund (20%), which covers the maintenance and acquisition costs of county parks and recreational properties, and the county buildings fund (80%).

Heard Koering issue a directive to move personnel and budget committee meetings to the county board room and to livestream those meetings going forward. The chairman also stated he wanted the statute cited and reason listed for when the committee goes into closed session. County Administrator Tim Houle previously stated this was announced during the meetings. It was not, however, listed on committee meeting agendas.

Koering’s directive comes following a letter from resident Jeff Czeczok requesting consideration of these changes.

“A lot has changed since the public not being able to come here, and I still talk to a lot of people and they’re concerned that they’re not privy to what’s going on,” Koering said. “ … People can watch and they can go back and see what was said. They can watch the raw decisions we’re making on their behalf.”

Koering’s position on this matter reversed from a stance he took in 2014, when Czeczok requested the board record its committee of the whole meetings. At that time, Koering said he wished even the media wouldn’t attend those meetings so the board could “talk more freely.” In late April, Koering said his thoughts have evolved on the issue.

Approved a contract for remonumentation with Kramer Leas Deleo, a professional surveying and engineering firm, for $66,896. Remonumentation is the process by which surveying is completed to identify the corners of land sections in the county, a years-long project the county is undertaking with the intention to improve parcel mapping accuracy. This contract covers the townships of Deerwood, Bay Lake and Garrison.

Authorized County Engineer Tim Bray to advertise for sealed bids for the construction of culvert linings on various roadways, which are a combination of maintenance improvements and roadways scheduled for resurfacing within the next five years.

Approved the reclassification of a tax-forfeited parcel as non-conservation and authorized the direct sale of the parcel, located in Breezy Point, to an adjoining landowner for $200. The parcel is 9-by-130-feet in size.

Approved a number of tax abatements based on settlements over market value reductions of various properties throughout the county.

Supported a lawful gambling application for an exempt permit for the St. Mathias Knights of Columbus for an event set for Aug. 21 at the St. Mathias Church and park in St. Mathias Township.

Approved the promotion of Robert Kowalzek to patrol deputy in the sheriff’s office.

Approved the hiring of the following people: Lucas Pipenhagen, customer relationship management software developer, information technology; Rakkia Smith, part-time deputy, sheriff’s office; Tyler O’Brien, full-time deputy; Cameron Wabby, corrections officer; Darcy Walkowiak, financial worker, community services; Mandolin Copa, financial worker; and Erik Huseby, seasonal engineering assistant, highway department.

Accepted the departure of John Dalos, part-time deputy; Phillip Ramsdell, 911 communications officer; and Jon Knutson, business manager, highway department. The board also approved replacement staffing for Ramsdell’s position.

Approved new staffing in the county attorney’s office for an assistant county attorney, which was approved as part of the 2020 budget.

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