Planning commission denies request for ‘campground’ off Highway 61 near Hovland
Photo by Joe Friedrichs

Planning commission denies request for ‘campground’ off Highway 61 near Hovland

A green statue located on private property near Hovland won’t be greeting any campers this summer following a recent decision by the Cook County Planning Commission.

A local property owner hoping to operate a campground of sorts near Lake Superior was denied a required permit by the planning commission April 13.

Jeff and Dana Bartheld own property near Hovland off Highway 61. A green statue resembling a rodent makes the property noticeable to motorists traveling the highway. The Bartheld’s request was to allow three recreational vehicles to be parked on the property, with two additional tent sites also included in the request. They propose to have guests from their church community located in Princeton, Minn., come to visit, as well as function as a retreat for alcohol recovery, according to records provided by Cook County. The Barthelds are members of the Freshwaters Church in Princeton, according to their permit application submitted to the county, while noting that they “would like to plant a Methodist church on the North Shore.”

“We have had the calling and we are hoping to do so,” the Barthelds wrote in their application.

When explaining why they were denying the permit, the planning commission members said the lot is too small, the use of the land is too intense, the campground does not fit the character of the neighborhood and because there is inadequate protection for neighbors from the proposed use of the property. The planning commission denied the request in a unanimous vote.

In addition to the campground activities, the Barthelds were also requesting to host an annual event referred to as a “fellowship trip.” The application does not explain what activities will occur at the property during this event, according to county officials.

Ahead of the meeting April 13, the planning commission received nearly 60 pages of public comments about the Bartheld’s request, according to Neva Maxwell, the county’s zoning administrator. Nearly all of those comments were opposed to the request, Maxwell said.

The Barthelds both became noticeably irritated during the public comment period of the planning commission meeting on Wednesday.

“This is some of the most foolishness that I have ever heard,” Jeff said of the concerns raised by the county and the neighbors.

The Barthelds contend they are not operating a campground on their property.

“They are our friends coming up to visit, it’s not a big deal,” Dana said.

Adjacent property owner Tim Pratt said most people in Cook County have people come to visit and that camper pads and RV hookups are not typically part of the process. Pratt expressed a variety of concerns during the public comment period about the Barthelds request and course of action.

“They did all of this without a permit,” Pratt said. “They got caught and that’s why we’re here.”

According to the county’s land services department, the three RV/camper pads are already installed with electric hookups. There was no specific mention of what needs to happen regarding the green statue or the RV hookups following the denial of the permit.

Despite their claims that it is not a campground, what they have done with their property does fit the legal definition of such a venue, according to county records.

The decision of the planning commission needs to be approved by the Cook County of Board of Commissioners. Their next meeting is April 26.

The audio below is an exchange between Planning Commission Board Chair Judy Motschenbacher and Jeff Bartheld during the April 13 meeting.

Regarding the green statue on the Bartheld’s lawn, WTIP found information about a similar character known as ‘Rat Fink’ while researching information for this story. Evidently, Rat Fink was created a sort of ‘anti-hero’ to Mickey Mouse.