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Sarah Smith, Forum Communications Co., Published May 15 2012

Proposed resort deal could spike population near small Minnesota lake

PARK RAPIDS, Minn. – Another showdown could be brewing between lake activists and Hubbard County, this time over a proposed resort deal on Upper Bottle Lake that could potentially double the small body of water’s population density.

Fargo real estate developer Mike Allmendinger sought a conditional use permit last week for the defunct Wambolt’s Resort off Intrepid Road. Because the resort has not been in business for nearly a decade, a permit was necessary to reinstate its resort taxation status.

Lake residents say the conversion only involves seven cabins and that a “Chicken Little” atmosphere is permeating the conversion. No large-scale development has been planned, the lake association maintains.

Resorts enjoy a break in tax status, similar to residential housing, said Lyle Robinson, Hubbard County commissioner.

“It’s a tax shelter,” Robinson said of the resort’s tax status.

“Most people have a resort so they can hold property until the value goes up,” he said.

“Down the road, when it (the economy) recovers, then you look at your options,” Robinson said. “Right now, keeping a big piece of property in one big piece taxwise is beneficial because each lot is called a building site and then that really raises your taxes. If I had a big piece of property, I’d make a resort out of it for a while.”

Members of Hubbard County’s Coalition of Lake Associations have expressed concern since the conditional use permit sailed through the county’s Planning Commission last week.

The application by Blazing Star LLC to operate a resort was granted with conditions. But the controversy started before the meeting.

“We literally did not know anything about this until 24 hours ahead of time, because it wasn’t posted on the Internet so we didn’t know there was a posting until the absolute last minute,” said COLA member Chuck Diessner, speaking of the lack of public notice.

Even Robinson agreed.

“I was kind of surprised it came before the Planning Commission last week,” he said.

The county’s website did not have the meeting agenda until just shortly before the meeting, Diessner alleges.

Diessner said the applicants asked for two docks and three boats at each dock, for six boat slips. Instead, the Planning Commission recommended approval of the conditional use permit with 28 boat slips.

The Hubbard County Board is expected to consider the proposal today.

Upper Bottle Lake has just over 100 cabins.

The resort, with 27 acres and another adjoining parcel of 40 acres, conceivably could hold 100 more dwellings, Diessner said he was told. The 40-acre parcel has no lake frontage, according to county records.

The taxable market value of the larger parcel has declined from $342,600 in 2009 to $261,700 for this year. For the 27-acre parcel, the taxable market value was $1,267,300 in 2009 and is $1,051,400 this year.

The resort currently has 15 units in the first tier of development. And COLA members are worried many more tiers could be proposed. That’s not what lake residents say they’ve heard, and they maintain the rumor mill is out of control.

Allmendinger, a landscape architect and general manager of Kilbourne Group of Fargo, did not return a call seeking comment.

Diessner said the county has already retained legal counsel in the matter after COLA members began pushing for answers.

Buitenwerf would not comment on the proposal and suggested reviewing the public information on file.

Secretaries of State in Minnesota and North Dakota did not have any registrations for the Limited Liability Company Blazing Star, the entity listed on the land tracts as the developer.

Sarah Smith writes for the Park Rapids Enterprise