Request for ‘rural retail tourism’ denied by board

By Derrick Knutson—

There won’t be a cross-country skiing or canoe rentals on a portion of Sunrise Lake following a decision by the Chisago County Board of Commissioners May 16.

Before the board under its health and human services agenda was a proposal by Lindstrom resident Nathan Johnson to allow “rural retail tourism” on property he owns by the lake.

In his application, Johnson stated he’d like to be able to allow low-impact recreational opportunities on the property, but the zoning district in the area currently only allows for two types of business – bed and breakfast establishments and hair salons.

Before the application came to the board to add the third proposed use, the county planning commission made a unanimous vote to deny it.

That denial passed at the board level by only a slim margin.

Commissioners Ben Montzka, Lora Walker and Rick Greene voted in favor the denial, while commissioners George McMahon and Mike Robinson cast dissenting votes.

Robinson said the county should be focusing on helping businesses, not making potential business owners jump through hoops to set them up.

“We’ve been telling people for years that we need more business in the county and any time someone wants to start a business, there are 100 reasons why they can’t,” he said.

McMahon said rural retail tourism fits with the county’s comprehensive plan and the county board should look at updating its overlay districts to help reach economic development goals.

Montzka called the Sunrise Lake area “pristine,” and agreed with the planning commission’s recommendation.

“It is important to put businesses in the city where the infrastructure is close by,” he said. “Without protecting certain parts of our county, we’re going to lose what’s good about our county. One of the things that’s good about our county is that we do preserve the environment in some very special areas.”

Greene echoed Montzka’s assertion.

“I think the planning commission and the citizens feel that rural retail tourism opens it up to too many businesses,” he said.

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