Lake Andrew Township to consider own zoning prior to Kandiyohi County planning meeting


— Lake Andrew Township supervisors could decide Friday on whether or not to take over zoning duties from

Kandiyohi County

in the township's boundaries.

The supervisors agreed Wednesday night to continue a special meeting to Friday afternoon when they can meet with attorney Robert Ruppe, who is well-versed in township and municipal law. Their decision followed a 2 1/2 -hour public hearing at which an estimated 150 people packed the town hall.

Many of the attendees told the supervisors it was important to act in advance of a Nov. 13 Kandiyohi County Planning Commission hearing at which a conditional use permit for the Tepetonka golf course project will be considered.

The township must act before the permitting process advances in Kandiyohi County, or the township will not have the authority to consider a permit for the golf course project, opponents of the golf course told the supervisors.

"If you leave it to the county, you literally have no power left," Erik Hatlestad told the supervisors.

He was among those who also urged the township to adopt a year-long moratorium on development to consider a comprehensive land use policy.


Tepetonka Club

is seeking to develop a private, destination golf course on 227 acres of land along

Shakopee Creek

in the township.


Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners

voted 3-2 last month to not require the golf course developer to complete a more extensive environmental study than the 156-page environmental assessment worksheet it had completed. The worksheet — and the accompanying findings of fact and conclusions prepared by county environmental staff — found no significant environmental impacts from the proposed project.

The project represents a $30 million investment, and will generate an estimated $5 million in economic benefits for Kandiyohi County, according to Tepetonka Club.

It has generated significant controversy in the township. At one point in Wednesday's hearing, longtime township resident Bob Dickerson of Dickerson's Resort cited the divisions it has created and urged that people be more neighborly.

Opponents of the project told the supervisors it will exploit the township's groundwater resources and pollute Shakopee Creek and downstream waters.

"We need to guard and protect our water," said township resident Gene East, who was among those urging the supervisors to take over zoning authority.

There were also those at the meeting who cautioned the supervisors against it. They expressed concerns about the potential costs, as well as the likelihood of expensive litigation should the township challenge the Tepetonka project by taking over zoning administration.

Township Chair Jared Swart insisted at the start of the hearing that comments would only be accepted on the issue of taking over zoning administration.

"We are not here to talk about a certain project," he said.

Nonetheless, residents focused their comments on the golf course project. Most expressed concerns about the expected groundwater usage and charged that runoff from the course would pollute Shakopee Creek.

A number of people said they did not believe the environmental assessment worksheet sufficiently examined the environmental concerns, and want a more thorough examination as provided by an environmental impact statement.

"We don't realize what we are sitting on here," said Kathy Hartley in explaining her concerns about the potential harm to the township's natural resources.

The supervisors said they have heard from many people on the issue. While the hearing attracted a majority of people opposed to the golf course project, the supervisors emphasized that they have also heard from many residents concerned for the costs and liability the township could incur by taking over zoning.

"We have to do what is best for 770 voters," said Supervisor Sharon Oleson.

And without a doubt, concerns over the potential of litigation by targeting the Tepetonka Club project is top of mind.

"Being right" is no guarantee of not finding yourself in court and spending lots of money on attorneys, Supervisor Don Watson said.

The township has the authority to take on zoning administration, and there is precedent for it in the county. St. Johns Township took on zoning administration over concerns that a county rule banning employee housing on farm sites would prevent the Meadow Star Dairy project. The township awarded a permit for the large dairy in November 2014.

In contrast, there were some at the Lake Andrew Township hearing who told the supervisors that they favored township zoning to prevent the development of large dairy or feedlot operations.