— Following a three-and-a-half hour meeting Monday night, when 15 members of the public stood up to give their comments on the proposed project, the Kandiyohi County Planning Commission recommended the approval of a conditional use permit for
Tepetonka Club LLC
The permit, if approved, will allow for the construction of a private destination golf course and amenities on 227 acres in Lake Andrew Township.
The commission approved the recommendation unanimously and the permit will now move to the
Kandiyohi County Board
for final approval. The matter is scheduled to be before the board at its Nov. 21 meeting.
The proposed permit includes 27 conditions by which the golf club operators must abide. Fourteen of those
conditions were suggested by Lake Andrew Township,
from its submitted list of 33 proposed conditions for the permit.
"I thank the township for their constructive engagement," said Eric Van Dyken, county zoning administrator. "It is just that type of constructive engagement that is helpful and improves the process."
The conditions cover a wide range of issues including groundwater; runoff; impacts to bluffs, shorelines and wetlands; lighting; sewage; signage; chemical applications on the turf grasses; parking and traffic; special events and even the use of private helicopters.
"We will have no helicopter site at Tepetonka," said Tepetonka Club Chairman Mark Haugejorde.
Planning and zoning staff for the county recommended approval of the permit, saying the golf course will be a positive project for the area, as outlined in its draft findings regarding the course.
The findings said the project would not be injurious to use or enjoyment of other property in the area; would not impede the development or improvement of surrounding vacant land; that the site has adequate space and infrastructure to handle the project; that the project is an allowed use for the A-2 zoning of the land under the county's zoning ordinance; and that the project is in harmony with the goals and objectives of the county's Comprehensive Plan.
"This is a project that I have kind of been immersed in for a very long time," Van Dyken said. "It is for those reasons I felt confident making the recommendation I did. I've had not just the opportunity, but I've had the requirement to look at this from a lot of different angles."
The county permit is only one of a handful of permits Tepetonka will need to secure before it can officially begin construction and operations. Other required permits include the Minnesota Pollution Control Federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System and State Disposal System construction storm water permit, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources public water work permit, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Section 404 permit, Wetland Conservation Act wetland impact permit and the DNR water appropriations permit.
"There are multiple agencies that have an impact on and in many cases regulatory jurisdiction and permitting authority over activities at the site," said Jason Ver Steeg, engineer project manager from Duininck Inc. for Tepetonka. "These permits ensure that there are no negative environmental effects from the various activities that are needed to construct and operate the course as presented."
Tepetonka will need to go through the county conditional use permit process for a second time, to get permission to construct several proposed lodging cabins for members staying at the course. County zoning requires separate permits for different land uses, Van Dyken said.
The environmental impacts were top of the list of concerns from about a dozen of the public commenters. Many asked the Planning Commission to slow the process down or to even have the County Board revisit the question over whether Tepetonka should be required to complete a more in-depth environmental impact statement.
"It is time for Kandiyohi County Commissioners, zoning authority to step up and not only listen to those with power," said Betty Rustad. "What is there to lose to pause and allow all the agencies to do their assessments and come back to this table with all the information you need to make a true informed decision."
Van Dyken said that the environmental impact statement question was closed and it is not something the County Board could revisit, even if it wanted too. At its Oct. 3 meeting, the
County Board decided not to require an environmental impact statement
"I guess you might call it akin to double jeopardy," when a suspect is prosecuted twice for the same crime, Van Dyken said.
Many of the commenters said they felt unheard by not only the Planning Commission and County Board, but also by Tepetonka. They felt as if their concerns were not treated seriously enough or even listened to by those in power.
Erik Hatlestad, who farms in Lake Andrew Township, said the permit process for the golf club was just another example of the ultra wealthy and powerful being able to get what they wanted while the local residents have no say in how their communities are developed or treated.
Hatlestad said it also shows that rural residents can and will be bulldozed over because a wealthy developer flashes a bunch of money.
"It is clear to anyone with a pair of eyes or ears that the decision about this project has been made long ago. It is clear that some developers will always have special access and a fast track to the decision-making process in this county. This county is using its authority to promote monopoly power and the projects prioritized by ultra rich," Hatlestad said. "A growing number of community residents understand that their voice does not matter and will not be heard when measured against the rich and powerful."
There were a few people who spoke on behalf of Tepetonka. Jason Doty, an adjacent landowner to the Tepetonka site, who will be living next door to the course's maintenance and irrigation buildings, said the club has been great to work with and he looks forward to what they will bring to the property.
"They have been great partners with me and friends," Doty said. "I'm glad to have that around me, I really am."
Dean Lindquist, a resident of Lake Florida and a part owner of Tepetonka Club, said there are another 15 Lake Andrew residents who have ownership stakes in the golf course. He added there are another 37 members of the club living in Kandiyohi County.
Lindquist thanked the Planning Commission for all the hours of work and research they have done during this process. He said they have taken this issue seriously.
"Our wish is to only share a great golf experience," Lindquist said. "I want to share that with my friends."
At the start of the hearing, the Tepetonka Club group gave a presentation on the proposed golf course, led by Haugejorde. He said the course has been in the works for a couple of years and Tepetonka has gathered together a team of engineers, designers, soil scientists, hydrologists, contractors and experts to help create the best project possible for not only members but the surrounding community.
Local firms Duininck Golf, Duininck Inc. and Marcus Construction have been hired to do engineering and act as general contractors for the project. Haugejorde said working locally is an important aspect of the project.
"Everything we do we try to do on a local basis," Haugejorde said.
It was also added that the course will need approximately 40 full-time staff to operate and the vast majority of them will be from the local area as well.
The club believes that the course, once completed, will be an economic driver for Kandiyohi County, bringing in more than $5 million in tourism revenue along with increased sales, lodging and property tax collections. Haugejorde said Tepetonka has not asked for, nor received, any property tax relief for the project.
"We pay our taxes and they will be significant," Haugejorde said, estimating property taxes may be more than $200,000 a year.
Major construction of the course is scheduled to begin next year, as long as all the required permits and permissions are in place. There may be some limited site prep work this year, but most work will begin in 2024. If construction goes to plan, the vast majority of the work will be done by spring 2024 with golf course grow-in to take place over that growing season.
"We hope to be playing some golf later in 2025, with the course fully open in the spring of 2026," Ver Steeg said.