Isanti County denies rural retail business request

Several residents from Oxford Township spoke in opposition to a proposed business that would accommodate weddings and other events during a public hearing Oct. 16 before the Isanti County Board.

Following a motion and a second to approve the plan, commissioners eventually denied it because the operation appeared too large scale for the proposed 10-acre site and did not fit the criteria of the rural retail ordinance.

Boardchair Susan Morris originally voted for the proposal, believing the planning commission did its due diligence in setting a plethora of conditions on the plan. While her motion was seconded by Commissioner Larry Southerland, it was soundly defeated by the majority. There was no opposition to the vote that ultimately passed.

“I’ve been a part of this (discussion) from the beginning,” Morris said. “It’s a 20-acre parcel, but we wish it was in the middle of 200 acres.”

At issue, David and Susan Vigstol was requesting a conditional use permit for a rural retail tourism business for retreats, crafting, weddings or receptions at 27499 Furman Street NE in Oxford Township. David Vigstol said they wanted to run the business as a single family residential rental property. Their focus was on country weddings at the historical farm site.

Vigstol noted they intended to service groups up to about 150 people while operating a four season business to recover costs. A 50-car parking lot built along Co. Rd. 18 also was planned.

Zoning administrator Tim Anderson said county planners tabled the issue once before for further discussion and refining. There had been discussion at length, and the planning commission came up with several conditions. One condition was to review the business after one year, and a right turn lane at the property wasn’t found to be needed, he explained.

When the public hearing opened, one resident noted that part of the land provides no screen or buffer from any noise. “This is too large scale,” she added in terms of burdening the integrity of the rural landscape.

Others voiced concerns about noise, too, along with impacts on nearby property values.

“This is residential and not commercial land. This could open up a precedent for the county,” a second resident noted.

“I do not feel their request fits the county ordinance and maintains the peace and quiet that we moved here for,” said a third.

“How can 150 people and 75 cars…be a small impact?” another added.

It was brought to light that the Vigstols started the project to help pay their mortgage, while also showing concern about the operation’s impact on their neighbors and maintaining the quiet countryside.

One neighbor spoke in favor of the Vigstols and their request. “Their main concern has always been the neighbors,” he said. “I love living in the county, too, and I believe in respecting one’s property rights.”

Prior to her original motion to approve the request, Morris spoke again, this time addressing a few of the rumors and hard feelings that had surfaced throughout the process.

“It’s hurtful that there’s been some wild rumors about the Vigstols,” she said. “Another rumor is camping allowed on the property. This is not true. This has been a very difficult issue. It’s sad there’s been so many hurt feelings. People will be upset with me, and I will be supporting this.”

Later, Commissioner Mike Warring also weighed in on the matter. He said he started to receive calls on the issue about a week before the board meeting.

“I don’t feel it meets the low impact criteria of the ordinance,” he said. “Also, 20 acres is a small parcel (for traffic and noise issues). I’m opposed to this configuration of the request.”

Commissioner George Larson agreed with Warring and mentioned another concern about the plan’s impact on nearby Irving & John Anderson County Park, located on both sides of Co. Rd. 18, a quarter-mile north of Co. Rd. 9 and 2 miles south of Co. Rd. 5. After hours activity has been one concern at the park.

“At this time I have to vote against,” Larson said.

Added Commissioner Greg Anderson, “The planning commission has done its due diligence,” he said. “I realize there are 21 conditions compared to the original request, but I just don’t feel this situation meets the low impact and small scale. This is my opinion, so I feel I have to vote against it.”

New Hope building church, little league complex

The board approved a conditional use permit request by New Hope Community Church, of Cambridge, for a church and little league baseball complex near Skogman Lake in Cambridge Township.

New Hope purchased 25 acres of land there, east of Cambridge, in 2006. At present, the church is renting space including the Performing Arts Center at Cambridge-Isanti High School for Sunday services.

Phase one of the plan is to seat 400 people in the sanctuary of the new church, while the second phase is building a sanctuary for a total of 750 seats in the auditorium. Also planned on site: an amphitheater, a prayer cabin and amplified music occasionally from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. outdoors.

The first phase of the church will involve up to 16,600 square feet, and the second phase an additional 21,000 square feet.

One concern that has been mentioned is increased traffic to the area.

New Hope, a church plant of First Baptist Church of Cambridge, has been in existence since 2004.

In other action, the board:

• Held a public hearing on a petition to form the Blue Lake Improvement District. No opposition was voiced. Commissioners anticipate voting on the district at their Nov. 6 meeting.

• Agreed to amend county ordinance to expand the notification to property owners from a quarter-mile to 1 mile away for rural retail tourism requests.

• Approved a request by Eric and Nicole Schneider, of Isanti, to present a preliminary plat of Schneider Distillery on land in Bradford Township.

• Approved Blue Chip Consulting, Inc., based in Plymouth, and Joel Quimby & William Bergmann, of Big Lake, to present a preliminary plat of Wilderness Ponds Second Addition in Spencer Brook Township.

• Approved a conditional use permit request by Mark A. Larson, of Isanti, for an automobile repair shop on property in Stanford Township.