Tense meeting leads Erickson to withdraw CUP request

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 31, 2002

When all was said and done Tuesday night at the Mower County Planning Commission meeting, a lot was said and nothing done.

Leif Erickson withdrew his petition for the construction of a golf course complex and apologized to the commission for "taking up so much of your time."

He also apologized to friends and neighbors in Red Rock Township.

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Commission chair Dave Hillier said neither apology was necessary.

Score one for farming families, who were able to convince the petitioner his idea would impact the countryside in a negative way

"I apologize for taking up your time," the petitioner told the commission members after watching his idea condemned.

"No apology necessary," said the commission chair.

The action prevented the commission members from deciding the request, as mandated by law, strictly on the merits of the petition and not subjectively by adjoining landowners' feelings.

Erickson voluntarily withdrew his petition for a conditional use permit after hearing a lengthy procession of Red Rock Township residents register their opposition to his proposed idea.

Erickson sought the CUP to construct a golf course and campground on property in Section 28, Red Rock Township. In addition, there would be a residence for the owner/operator and tourist cabins for golfers.

After county planner Daryl W. Franklin described the conditions that could be applied to the permit, Erickson's first words were ominous, "I've got to be crazy to even try something like this."

He went on to describe the project being promoted, in part, by professional golfer Tiger Wood.

According to Erickson, the "First Tee Foundation" seeks to making golf available to teenagers and children.

He wanted to construct his complex on an 85 acre tract of land, where 40 golfing campers would visit each week during the summer as well as their parents. The golfers would use both the course constructed on Erickson's property as well as others in the area.

"I think we have a great opportunity here," Erickson said in conclusion.

Erickson's time-table called for phasing in the entire development, which he said would making golfing an Austin tourist attraction.

Mike Grinstead, co-owner of Meadow Greens Golf Course in Lansing Township, supported the idea. "I think it has a wonderful family

scope," Grinstead said, adding that he and his parents turned their farmland into a golf course in order to make money for their families they could not make


Grinstead was the only person at the jam-packed planning commission meeting to speak in support of Erickson's idea.

Speaking against the idea were a procession of Red Rock township residents, reading prepared statements.

Jack Bergstrom submitted a petition of signatures opposing the idea "Make no mistake," Bergstrom said. "I'm angry."

Dick Waldman and his wife, Anne, said the proposed project would impact adversely on agriculture and the already vulnerable water supply. Mrs. Waldman pointed out the history of the closing of the nearby Red Rock Sanitary landfill and how digging an immense sand pit to close the landfill left the area's wells vulnerable to contamination.

Chris Morgan said it would not allow him to enjoy life in the country, where he is building a new home. Randy Tapp said much the same, adding, "Do we have to change our way of life because Leif Erickson has a vision?"

Richard Andree was the last to speak in opposition

Speaking emotionally, Andree said the proposed business development in the countryside would interfere with farms that have been continuing for the lifetimes of their owners.

Andree concluded his presentation in a voice increasingly wracked with emotion and said to the commission members, "Tell us that we matter by voting 'No' on this proposal."

The crowd applauded his remarks

Roger Slindee said the Red Rock Township Board has no position on the request, which the township supervisor said would have to qualify for the guidelines of the township's zoning ordinance.

At the conclusion of the discussion, Hillier, 3rd District county board member and non-voting member of the county planning commission, reminded everyone "Campgrounds and golf courses are permitted uses in rural areas" if they otherwise satisfy the county's zoning ordinance.

Then, Erickson spoke in a wavering voice and asked if he could withdraw his petition.

Hillier said "Yes" and County Attorney Patrick A. Oman confirmed the action.

Erickson mentioned some of his neighbors by name and said, "Sorry, guys. I'm really sorry."

He collected his materials and left the meeting room

However, the audience wasn't done with Erickson. Opponents of the idea asked Hillier and Oman if Erickson could return with the same petition and they were told "No" and that he would have to wait a year to submit the same request.

Also Tuesday night, the commission approved a preliminary plat request from Dennis Kelly to develop three residential lots in Section 27, Austin Township, and near the Ulland Bros. quarry along Mower County No. 4.

Mary Dowd presented a list of objection to the proposals, which already has received a CUP.

She also spoke at length against the idea before the commission members Tuesday night.

The commission voted 6-0 to recommend approval of

the preliminary plat for Kelly.

Lee Bonorden can be contacted at 434-2232 or by e-mail at :mailto:lee.bonorden@austindailyherald.com