Rural? Urban? Farmland? Country homes?
Scambler Twsp. land development debate has implications
for entire lakes area, as more seek rural-residential lifestyle
Spectators were limited to 15 minutes of testimony prior to the Nov. 14 Scambler Township vote to relax the ordinance–in effect, opening more parcels for 2.5 acre homesites.
Scambler is a largely rural, farm township, with fewer than 400 year-round residents. But with its proximity to the Pelican Lake recreation and commercial growth areas, and Pelican Rapids to the south, Scambler’s path could help set the stage for rural-residential development for decades to come.
Following are quotes, excerpts and paraphrased comments from the discussion.
“I’m for progress, but I don’t want to see Scambler start to look like a village…with overcrowding,” said Illena Anderson.
She noted that 2.5 acres is about the size of three football fields–to bring some visual perspective to the discussion. She thought that was small for an area identified as rural and agricultural.
The most impassioned opposition to the zoning change came from Don Radtke, who was in the Maple Grove area when the suburbs sprawled into the neighborhood.
Elected officials reduced from 20 acre lots…which brought development …which produced demands for finished roads and other services…which increased taxes for everybody.
“There’s no need for this change, except for greed by some people to make more money,” said Radtke, who said the change only opens the gates for land sales and home development to benefit the few.
“It seems like you’re moving too rapidly,” said Scambler property owner Keith Brandt, who said he was not advocating either side. But Brandt felt comprehensive plans and ordinance changes need to follow a process and reflect the “ideals” of a broad cross section of township landowners.
Brandt said he had experience in the land rush style development in West Fargo, Horace and surrounding Cas County, North Dakota. “We made mistakes, and there were lessons learned,” said Brandt. “I’d be very cautious.”
Scambler is about the only township in the region with such tight development controls, said town board chair Dave Ritchie. “The township needs to get out of the dark ages…the ordinance was written in 1991,” said Ritchie.
Former Scambler township official David Kern, Tamarac Lake area, participated in a round of ordinance modifications about 15 years ago. He said he was concerned about the change. “I have 12 acres, and I can’t imagine what it would look like if it were carved into 2.5 acre lots,” said Kern.
“I thought we had a good thing going,” following the updates to the original 1991 ordinance. “But if we let the genie out of the bottle now, you’re never going to put it back” as far as denser rural development, he added.
Otter Tail County Commissioner Wayne Johnson took a regional view of the issue.
“We need more workforce. We need housing…We’re dealing with it at the county level all the time,” said Johnson. The county has generally taken the position that rural-residential homes are just a part of a broader strategy that also includes more housing plats in small cities, more rental options, and rehabilitation of existing dwellings.