Fish Trap Lake resort wants to expand, but DNR seemed confused and neighbors oppose it

By Jim Wright, Correspondent

“We just got a call from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR); it is not a marina,” County Zoning Administrator Amy Kowalzek told the Morrison County Board of Commissioners, Tuesday.

That news was not what Scenic View Resort owners Jeff and Julie Hardy expected to hear from the DNR, relative to their request for a permit to expand their resort’s campgrounds.

Now it is back on the commissioners’ table, with further consideration about the conditional use permit request planned for the Tuesday meeting.

Additionally, there is opposition to the campground expansion.

Ten Fish Trap Lake area landowners, have been opposing adding campsites at the resort, contacting the commissioners by phone, email and in person, as well as speaking out at the March 23 public hearing about the permit request.

Still, the resort owners may be back on track for the approval they had expected during the County Board business meeting in early April.

They expected approval then because the Planning Board recommended approval, which moved the permit request ahead for County Board consideration and possibly a vote.

“I would not have brought the request forward, if I had known about the docking status, “Kowalzek said.

“Friday morning (April 3) we had a little development,” Kowalzek said at the April 7 meeting. “The DNR is not sure if this rises to the level of marina,” referring to the resort’s docks, and they are having trouble finding the original license.”

“If it doesn’t fit the stipulations of a marina, which would be under the jurisdiction of the DNR,” Kowalzek said at that meeting, then it is “mooring” and will be under the jurisdiction of the county. Different rules would then apply.

Now that it is known that it is considered mooring by the DNR, and is a county responsibility, Kowalzek said she would be going to the resort to measure the docks, with 700 square feet of dock allowed per 120 feet of shoreline.

Jeff Hardy said, “The resort has over a 1,000 square feet of shoreline and 4,700 to 5,000 feet of docking.” That would put the docks versus shoreline ratio well within the county’s rules.

Hardy said, “I believe the county is working hard to streamline the permitting process with the Development Review Team meetings,” intended to determine, before fees are paid, if there should be a public hearing.

“The Township Board really needs to be involved also, so they have accurate information,” Hardy said.

As an example of the misinformation circulating, Hardy said, “I called Ron Kresha (state representative) yesterday (April 14), and he was under the impression I was adding 130 sites.”

The sources of the misinformation are unknown.

Hardy wants to add 22 sites to his 130 current campsites this year, and eight more in following years, so the resort eventually will have a total of 160 campsites.

The documents he had submitted to the county showed he had made an earnest attempt to fulfill the many, pre-permit request stipulations he was shown.

“Requests for conditional use permits by lake shore business owners automatically trigger a complete inspection of the property,” Kowalzek said.

“When you took over (in 2012),” Commissioner Jeff Jelinski asked, “you assumed it was a licensed marina?”

“I thought it was,” Hardy said. Before purchasing the resort, Hardy said he and his wife managed the property for 12 years and it was never discussed with the owners.

“The DNR acknowledged that two hydrologists, at different times over the years, determined it is a marina,” Kowalzek said.

“I met with a local DNR hydrologist, around the end of March and he assured me we were permitted as a marina,” said Hardy.

Hydrologists are professionally involved in the monitoring, management and protection of water and water resources in commercial and environmental settings.

Commissioner Mike Wilson said, “I feel bad about this situation, because that gentleman (Hardy) thought it was a marina (inspected and licensed).”

“After everyone getting kicked around by the economy for years, now we can get a little ahead, and with interest rates rising, now is the time,” Hardy said. “Now I feel like I’ve been blind-sided.”

In the meantime, there were 10 Fish Trap Lake area residents at the April 7 Board meeting. Due to the  marina or mooring delay, they didn’t voice opposition then, although invited to speak by Board Chairman Kevin Maurer.

However, 10 protests had already been emailed to the county, expressing opposition to the expansion, and eight people voiced their opposition for the same reasons at the permit request’s public hearing, March 23. Reportedly, the emails were from the same people who were at the meetings — all landowners in the Fish Trap Lake area near the resort.

All of them cited opposition to “increased (boating) pressure on the lake,” and increased traffic on the 30 mile per hour Fish Trap Lake Road, along with other concerns.

The Planning Commission’s determination, after initial review of Hardy’s completed forms and documents, was that “The requested use is compatible with the surrounding area.”

“There are other issues here that need to be addressed,” Maurer said, leaving that for the Board’s next meeting.

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