The proposed establishment of a campground near the southeast side of Otter Tail Lake continues to meet opposition from area lake residents.
The campground, tentatively called Homestead at Otter Tail, would be located near the junction of Highways 5 and 78. Developers are Greg and Beth Swanberg; their plans call for 185 recreational camping units.
An Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) on the development was recently forwarded to the State Environmental Quality Board.
"These 185 sites will be equivalent of adding 185 lake lots which equals 3.5 miles of lakeshore residents to Otter Tail Lake. The EAW says there will be no effect on the lake? I don't think so," said Dan Arnold at a Feb. 11 Otter Tail County Board meeting.
Arnold has a lake home directly across from the proposed campground. He maintains that the EAW does not fully include the compatibility with surrounding neighbors, both lakeshore and working farms.
"This exact item is the number one criteria listed in the Otter Tail County shoreland management ordinance dealing with the granting of conditional use permits," he said.
Arnold first expressed his concerns during a public hearing in September 2011. At that time, he said he and fellow lakeside property owners were deeply concerned about having 185 camping units on 69 acres of land. He added that the cluster development would alter the entire character of the area.
Others opposed to Homestead at Otter Tail cited traffic congestion, trespassing, excess noise, the negative impact of septic systems for a large group of people, congestion at the nearby public access and other factors.
"It just doesn't seem like development of a recreational campground is in the best interests of area residents," said Janet Nermoe, who also spoke during the 2011 public hearing and lives adjacent to the proposed campground. "Negative impacts far outweigh anything positive."
Nermoe reiterated her concerns to county commissioners this week.
"The petitioners state that their proposal will not affect any lake. However, it certainly will," she said. "Having an RV park a short distance from Otter Tail Lake is going to be the attraction for this campsite. Campers will have boats and personal watercraft."
Nermoe also raised the issue of traffic concerns.
"Entrances to Highway 78 are all dangerous even without additional traffic," she said. "Since this is a major feeder to I-94, there are increasing amounts of traffic and a disaster waiting to happen."
Nermoe said that County Highway 5 is at the bottom of a hill.
"Some lake residents have been told they cannot have a driveway off of Highway 78 because of that hill," she said. "Proposed restaurants have been told they can't relocate to Otter Tail Lake along Highway 78 because of their turn being off Highway 78. Now, the petitioner is asking for 185 vehicles to turn off Highway 78 every time they enter this development."
After the Environmental Quality Board publishes the notice of the completed EAW, there will be a 30-day public comment period. This will run from Feb. 18 to March 20. After that, the proposal will go back to county commissioners for review.
If decision makers do not have enough information, the EAW can be beefed up or the county board could require that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) be prepared.