Isanti County tables decision on retreat center

At the Isanti County Board meeting May 17, Zoning Administrator Trina Bergloff presented information for a proposed retreat center in Wyanett Township.

“Clark Hauger wants to open a retreat center with a primary focus on Christian education, hospitality, education and spiritual renewal, with temporary lodging,” Bergloff said.

Hauger originally requested to have 99 people on site. The Isanti County Planning Commission received a letter from Wyanett Township with a request to lower the number of people on site from 99 to 60, and limit the temporary lodging to 35 people.

“He wants to be able to handle more church groups instead of just individuals, couples or families,” Bergloff said.

There were some questions about possible wetland violations on the property. Hauger and Darrick Wotacheck, Isanti County’s water planner and wetland specialist, went through the property very thoroughly.

“Mr. Hauger has signed a voluntary waiver to comply with all of the restrictions and violations that need to be brought up to code on the property,” Bergloff said. “There are neighbors that are concerned with the road, the wetlands, noise and how this operation will affect their property values.”

Commissioner Terry Turnquist said the neighbors are concerned because they are in a rural area and there is nothing like this around the area.

At the Isanti County Planning Commission’s public hearing held on May 11, 21 conditions were placed on the property including:
• No more than 60 people on site during daytime hours.
• No more than 35 people for overnight lodging.
• Hours of operation will be Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.
• Allowed to be open seven days per week from April 1 through Nov. 1.
• No alcohol on site for the retreat center.
• The temporary lodging will be a maximum of two weeks per stay.
• All campfires must cease by 11 p.m.
• No off site parking.
• No outside amplified music.
• The horses will be only on site.
• The dormitory/sanctuary and three hermitages must be constructed according to the site plan which will be located 1,000 feet from any neighboring houses.

“This is an allowable type of dwelling in this area. It’s just a matter of what conditions we place on them so that you can appease the neighbors so he can operate his dream,” Turnquist said.

The board decided to table the motion due to some legal issues. County Attorney Jeff Edblad said he needs to look into the matter further before making any recommendations.

“It seems counterintuitive to be looking for a variance on something that you haven’t been granted permission to do initially,” he said.

“We are tabling this until next month because we need to get clarification on the initial variance request for 65 people instead of 35,” Turnquist said.