Wadena County commissioners approved three conditional use permits for properties in Sebeka, Wadena and Staples on June 1.

Sebeka

A quilting and crafting retreat cabin on Huntersville Road along the Crow Wing River in Sebeka brought considerable discussion to the Planning Commission, as planning and zoning director Deana Malone said. The property will include a new cabin, sewer, well and driveway for overnight craft retreats.

Throughout the commission’s discussion, owner Gary Benson said he was interested in other options for the property such as group parties or family reunions. However, the uses were not included on the application. To have other uses a new application would have to be submitted.

“By precedence we have some other quilting crafting businesses in the area, but they have to stick to that use of the Conditional Use permit and can’t be one thing one night and another thing another night,” commission member Erich Heppner said in the meeting on May 20.

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Neighboring property owners noted concerns about the environmental impact, the number of occupants allowed, the size and type of parking lot and if the cabin would be used for any other purposes. Three community members, of the five, explicitly stated being against the use of the property. The area properties include homes, a canoe outfitter, forestry office and a firewood business, according to the application.

“The whole community there would like a sounder business plan,” neighbor Warren Sowers shared with the Planning Commission. “We do have worries and the crafting application didn’t have much of a foundation.”

The permit states the conditions of no removal of live vegetation within 75 feet of the river, building the cabin at least 175 feet from the ordinary high water level, having an erosion plan and a maximum of a 100 square foot deck by the river. The retreat does not have designated quiet hours, though any possible noise issues should be addressed. The maximum number of occupants is 16 with no camping available.

Wadena

A gravel pit on 170th Street near the Wadena County Transfer Station will continue with new owners with the approved renewal for Minnerath Investments. The services include extraction, processing, storage, crushing and screening and hot mix plant. The pit will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday with no Sunday or holiday hours.

“It has been in operation for years and have had no response from the neighbors,” according to the Planning Commission. There are also other pits nearby. “It gets used by (the) County and having availability of the gravel appreciates the roads in the area.”

Staples

As a family is retired and would like to have their family members close by, a mobile home on a property in Staples will be added for the family’s son, wife and two children, according to the application. The county’s Zoning Ordinance allows second family dwellings.

“With the screen with the trees and the setback, most people won’t even know that the home is there,” as the Planning Commission stated.

Solid waste designation ordinance passes

While no members of the public shared during the solid waste designation ordinance hearing, commissioners had plenty to share.

“The general intent of the plan and the ordinance … is to ensure that we receive the waste that’s generated in our county to pay for the cost of our share of ownership of that facility,” said Chris McConn, Solid Waste director. “Without an ordinance like this a third party could come in and compete essentially with the county to draw waste away … which would mean that we would continue to pay for our share of ownership of Prairie Lakes but we would not have the waste to gain the benefit of that ownership.”

The hour-long conversation again seemed to point to denying the ordinance but in a 4-1 vote, the ordinance passed with commissioner Jon Kangas opposed. Commissioners repeated concerns from previous meetings surrounding self-haulers, where waste needs to be brought and enforcement of the ordinance. Kangas reviewed several sections of the ordinance related to these concerns during the hearing.

When asked if she sees problems with how the ordinance is written, county attorney Kyra Ladd said, “The facts and circumstances surrounding any given situation has to be analyzed from an objective standard, and so I just don’t know that there are these issues.”

In other business, the board discussed:

  • How the grade for county engineer technician IIs moves from a grade 51 to 53. The grade is not a new change, though an additional employee has completed the training for the position. Commissioner Jon Kangas asked about the need for these higher level positions. Engineers complete training and certifications to work by themselves, as county engineer Ryan Odden explained. The training costs for this employee have been about $10,000 over four years.

  • The wage for a part-time employee at the Transfer Station. The county has been trying to hire part-time workers for about two years. The employee will work on Saturdays and throughout the summer, which are the busiest times, according to Solid Waste director Chris McConn.

  • Programs available through the University of Minnesota Extension SNAP-Ed, including at the Wadena Farmer’s Market. Youth and seniors can receive $2 tokens at the market towards making a purchase. EBT and SNAP purchases are also doubled at the market up to $10. The market opens on June 4 on Wesley Lawn across from Tri-County Health Care. There are also cooking classes and garden units offered.

  • The impact of Wadena County 4-H offerings during the pandemic. Wadena County educator Kim Dailey said they prioritized showing up for youth with online programs and goat camp in a box as well as an in-person achievement day and horse show in 2020. The exhibits and livestock shows will return to the fair for 2021 on June 17-20.

  • The 2020 highway department annual report, including the gas tax amounts townships received for road and bridge projects.

  • A draft of the highway department’s expected projects for 2021-25.

  • The June board of commissioners meeting schedule includes a closed session on negotiation strategies on June 7 and a board and board of equalization meeting from 3-6 p.m. on June 14. The June 22 meeting may be canceled.

The board also approved:

  • A temporary reduction in hours for Public Health employee Jill Davis for June 7 to Aug. 27.

  • Updating the county’s online GIS interface for a maximum of $15,000.

  • A gambling permit for the Staples Lions to sell pull tabs at the Vintage Golf Club.

  • The replacement of one of Friendly Rider’s buses for $18,187.60 from the Friendly Rider reserve account. The bus costs $90,938 with 80% covered by the state and 20% by the county.

  • The 2022-24 memorandum of agreement between the county and University of Minnesota Extension for the 4-H educator as well as the addendum for summer interns. Both are employed by the university. The county’s responsibility is $236,278 for three years.

  • New dump body, hoist and plow equipment for the tandem truck for $121,571.

  • Selling two highway department vehicles on MinnBid as well as purchasing two replacement trucks from the Minnesota Department of Transportation for $12,000 each.

  • The bid for the County Road 100 project to Central Specialties of Alexandria for $528,993.49. The project from Reini Drive to County Road 104 is set for this summer.

  • Resubmitting an application for the Transportation Economic Development program with MnDOT. The project would be for adding left and right turn lanes and safety improvements in the CSAH 92 (Greenwood Avenue) realignment in conjunction with the Tri-County Health Care center project.