Archived Story

Recent LID proposals create divide

Published 11:11am Monday, June 24, 2013

Daily Journal

On Tuesday, the Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners will decide on a request for a lake improvement district on Star Lake, the latest request for such a district.

Recent LIDs have been proposed to take proactive measures against problems like water quality and invasive species.

Not all property owners see eye-to-eye on the idea.

On Star Lake, those in favor of the LID hope to prepare financially for any future invasive species and water quality issues.

“The vast majority on this lake, their families have been here for generations,” said Lee Mindemann, chairman of the LID committee for the Star Lake Property Owners Association. “Most of us would give our right arms to protect this for our kids and grandchildren.”

The lake association filed its recommendation with the board despite no current water issues, following the lead of nearby Marion Lake. Mindemann said funding is the main reason for the association’s recommendation.

Mindemann points to the DNR’s $7.2 million budget to combat invasive species. With more than 10,000 lakes in the state, very little is divided between each lake.

“The fact of the matter is that the DNR can only do what the legislature directs and that they are funded,” Mindemann said. “The DNR doesn’t have the budget to protect our lakes.”

The lake association would have limited funds to deal with problems on their own. The annual budget for the association is $4,000. The LID on Star Lake would initially levy $25,000 to start funding — $7,500 would go to anticipated annual operating costs. That would leave $17,500 to start their contingency funds. Property owners would vote on a cap in the future, according to Mindemann.

Currently, there are six LIDs in the county— five were passed without any major petitions, according to Land and Resource Director Bill Kalar. The uses have varied as well. Residents of Pelican Lake use a LID for insect control, while others have corrected run off issues, Kalar said.

Other property owners, however, are not enthused.

Rick Snelgrove, property owner on Marion Lake who has helped organize against the Star Lake LID, isn’t buying it.

For Snelgrove, the district would mean more money and government for protection they should already have.

“I’m looking at the business side of it, at taxation,” Snelgrove said. “We already pay for some of the perks they want us to pay for. We’re not getting anything for the money.”

Snelgrove and other organizers are also upset with the legislation establishing the LIDs. Currently, only formal request is needed for the board to establish a LID. While the board did have a public hearing several weeks ago, many felt their opinions have gone overlooked because the board acts without a majority vote by property owners.

The board’s decision on Tuesday can and most likely will be petitioned, however. Marion Lake will hold a special referendum for their LID on July 20. Snelgrove said that special elections, petitions and hearings on LID establishment spend too much time and money for something meant to fix problems that don’t exist.

If the formation of LIDs without a majority vote continues, Snelgrove said he is worried more people will pay unnecessary taxes.

“If we don’t stop this there’s going to be a gate opened up and other lakes are going to follow,” Snelgrove said.

Promoting the LID has been difficult, but Mindemann is confident Star Lake will become a model for others who wish to establish and run districts proactively.

“This is an uphill battle because, in this day and age, you’re asking people to pay more taxes and add another level of government,” Mindemann said. “It’s just much cheaper to be proactive about these things.”

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