‘St. Croix’ name remains

To the Editor:

As I meet with people around the district these days, there are two issues being moved forward by Minnesota House Democrats that have most of them fired up: increasing the gas tax by 20-cents per gallon and renaming the St. Croix State Park after former Vice President Walter Mondale.

There’s good news to report on one of these topics, as I have reached an agreement with House leadership on keeping the name St. Croix State Park in place.

The change is this: the bill’s author will now propose renaming a section of the St. Croix River as the “Walter F. Mondale Scenic Riverway,” and renaming existing structures after the former Vice President, including the visitors’ center at St. Croix State Park.

To me this is the best of both worlds.

Nearly 2,000 residents signed a petition asking that the name of our state park be left alone, and the reasons why are not a surprise. Generations of local families have made St. Croix State Park a part of their lives. This is a very personal issue for them, especially considering they weren’t consulted on a name change in the first place.

Without the input of concerned citizens, there is little doubt this name would have changed – likely with little publicity. Instead, the name St. Croix State Park will remain.

We can and should honor the work that Vice President Mondale has done, but we should also honor and preserve the name St. Croix State Park. This agreement will accomplish both of these goals, and my thanks go out to everyone in our area who spoke out against this proposal and made their voices heard. You made a difference.

Rep. Nathan Nelson

District 11B

Pokegama Township must repair Island Resort Road

To the Editor:

Island Resort Road is the only entrance road to Woischke’s Mobile Home Park. I have lived at the park for 20 years and have had a trailer in the park for 35 years. I drive up and down this road all the time.

I feel it is time the public and especially residents of Pokegama Township hear about how bad this road is with potholes. In order to navigate the road at this time you have to weave around the holes like an Indy driver.

Residents of the Park and Bill Woischke went to a Pokegama Township meeting a couple of years ago to express our concerns and ask the Pokegama Township Board to consider repaving this road. Mr. Deutschlander gaveled us out of order and wouldn’t let us speak. After much arguing back and forth several residents were allowed to speak. The Board said there was no money in the budget to repave this road. He said the only answer would be to dig up the blacktop and take the road back to gravel. This was the condition of the road when we first came up here 35 years ago. Since then Woischke has paid to have the road repaved several times out of his own pocket even though it is a township road and maintenance is up to the township.

Last week I heard a segment on Channel 4 about the state gas tax of 28% and how it is divided between state, county, municipalities and cities to be used on road repair. My question to the Pokegama Township is – what are you doing with the money and why can’t our road be repaved?  

I encourage any residents that have had damage done to their cars or trucks to send the repair bill to the township for their lack of concern about repairing this road correctly. Filling in the potholes once in awhile (but not often) is not the answer. They should be held responsible for damage this road has done to our vehicles.

I am hoping by putting light on this problem that more Pokegama Township residents that use this road will contact the Board and express their concerns. The Pokegama Board may be reached at Pokegama Township, 18336 Town Hall Road, Pine City, MN 55063; phone: 320-629-3719; or email them at pokegamatownhall@yahoo.com.  

These are our taxes and our roads and we deserve to know how the money is being spent and be able to drive on our roads without having to worry about damage to our vehicles.

Carolyn Kolar

Resident of Pokegama Township

County, township zoning will need to co-exist

To the Editor:

County zoning could be good for Pine County, but only if the county understands they will need to work with the townships and their zoning ordinances. A recent proposal from the  county board suggests they enact a county-wide land use ordinance. While many Minnesota counties have a land use ordinance, the May 1 “Five Reasons” article on the proposal missed important points and leads readers to incorrect conclusions.

First, townships may enact a township zoning ordinance even if the county adopts an ordinance. Contrary to the Five Reasons article, township zoning ordinances do not go away when the county enacts its ordinance. State law explains that when a county enacts a zoning ordinance, the townships may have an ordinance that is ‘consistent’ with the county ordinance. That means the townships may have zoning rules that are as strict or stricter than the county ordinance. Pine County townships with a zoning ordinance may need to update their ordinances, but they will continue to have them if they want.

This creates a two-track zoning system in which landowners will need to comply with both county and township zoning ordinances. It does not create a one-stop shop for zoning unless each township abandons their ordinance. If the county adopts an ordinance, the county and township ordinances will need to co-exist. Other townships and counties have shown that is possible by clear understandings of each other’s authority and limits. For example, townships must understand that the county ordinance sets the starting point for zoning. The county must understand the townships can enact stricter rules on the same subjects and the county cannot overrule the townships.

Second, where others complain about “inconsistencies,” townships see local control in action. While they may be less convenient for developers to comply with, the rules in each township exist to meet that community’s land use expectations. Rather than five county commissioners setting zoning rules for every property in the county, the township ordinances allow local elected officials to set policies best suited to their area. As described earlier, the inconsistencies will remain even if the county adopts a zoning ordinance.

Third, townships are not required to adopt a zoning ordinance so those that do understand the burdens they take on. They employ zoning administrators and attorneys to help them. They receive many of the same trainings that county officers receive to administer zoning. Townships usually enact zoning control when the county rules do not adequately meet the standard expected within the township. Some townships may choose to abandon their zoning ordinance and allow the county ordinance to govern their township. Other townships, though, will continue to enforce their ordinances.

Fourth, the Five Reasons article did not discuss any costs the county would be taking on to administer its own ordinance. Would those costs be paid by raising taxes, cutting other services, or demanding more of the current county staff? Would it require more assistance of county attorneys to enforce?

Land use planning is the community’s statement about what standards every landowner should be expected to meet. It is a balance between landowner rights and community standards. There is great value to keeping local control of zoning and townships will continue to express that through their zoning ordinance. Pine County and the townships can co-exist as zoning authorities, just as other townships and counties do. However, that is possible only with communication and clear understandings of each other’s authority.

Kevin Carlson

Pine County resident

The fickle season

To the Editor:

Many times, spring turns out to be a very unpredictable season.

This year is no exception.

Ever since the snow melted many of us have started to make plans for the next time of the year. Yards are being prepared. Our flower gardens have been staked out for future  seeds that will be in grandeur in a few weeks.

Lately the temperature reached almost to the 70s. Then that weather person announced the possibility of snow. What happened?

I only can say, “This is spring in Minnesota.” Oh well. I know June will be better.

Dale Kuzel

Pine City

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