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County board discusses cease and desist order for property near Pike Lake

Commissioner Ginny Storlie
Commissioner Ginny Storlie

There was a meeting of the Cook County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, August 22. The following discussion and action items occurred during Tuesday’s meeting.

Rural Communities
Minnesota Rural Counties Executive Director Dan Larson spoke to the county board near the start of Tuesday’s meeting. Larson explained how Minnesota Rural Counties is the only membership organization that advocates specifically for the concerns of rural counties in the state. Citing the history and progress of the organization, Larson explained how the MRC functions in the state and the various projects the group is working on. There are currently no delegates from Cook County serving on the MRC Board. Following Larson’s presentation, the commissioners discussed the cost and benefits of joining the MRC. The commissioners agreed to discuss joining or not joining the MRC at another meeting, possibly the next Committee of the Whole meeting in September.
 
Bill Lane
Cook County Land Services Administrator Bill Lane addressed the county board during Tuesday’s meeting. Lane had several items to present, most notably an issue with Cook County property owner Blake Cazier, the co-owner of a non-profit business known as Positive Energy Outdoors.

Lane said the county recently had to send a cease and desist letter to Cazier regarding development and gravel extraction being done on property near the Cascade River and Swamp Creek, located just north of Pike Lake. The letter, which is dated Aug. 2, says Cazier did not have a required interim use permit that was necessary for gravel extraction and other work being done on the site. Cazier and his wife Stephanie Love purchased the property in 2016 with the intent of building a mushing and outdoor adventure camp.

As an update since the cease and desist letter was sent in early August, Lane explained to the county board that Cazier is now in compliance with regard to obtaining the necessary paperwork and permits to do work on the site. In addition to the Cook County Land Services Department, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is also involved in observing work being done on the property under question.

After the cease and desist letter was sent, the planning commission met on Aug. 9 to review a request for an interim use permit from Cazier. After reviewing plans for the site and considering the fact Cazier was striving to correct the situation, the planning commissions voted unanimously to bring a recommendation to the county board that they approve the interim use permit for Cazier.

After a lengthy discussion, the commissioners agreed to grant the permit to Cazier so that development of the property can continue. However, Board Chair Jan Sivertson expressed concern that Cazier does not respect rules and required permits from Cook County.

“I’m uneasy, it feels bad,” Sivertson said, while also noting that it does appear Cazier is now willing to work with the county on being in compliance.
 
Jobs open
And finally from Tuesday’s meeting, the county board heard an update from County Administrator Jeff Cadwell regarding a number of open positions within the county staff. Most notably, the county is without a highway engineer following the resignation of Dave Betts in July. Cadwell said the county has been seeking applicants to fill the highway engineer position for more than six weeks, and has not received a single application as of Tuesday. The posting for the job expires this Friday.

Meanwhile, the county has been contracting with a qualified engineer from Lake County until someone is hired locally. The commissioners and Administrator Cadwell did not specifically discuss what they will do if no one applies for the highway engineer opening by Friday.

In addition, the county currently is in need of a director for its Public Health and Human Services Department. This opening is currently listed as an internal search, meaning someone already employed by the county will likely be hired as the director of the health and human services department. Other openings among county staff are in the sheriff’s department, auditor-treasurer’s office and the attorney’s office.

WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs spoke with Commissioner Ginny Storlie following the meeting and shares this interview. 
 

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