WHITE BEAR LAKE — Commercial Bay marina owners aren’t following the rules when it comes to dock length. 

The White Bear Lake Conservation District is clamping down on dock extensions in the crowded bay, per its ordinance, but may allow the status quo this year.

All but the VFW have docks that go beyond the 300-foot limit. The district was more lax when lake levels were low, allowing marinas to extend further to reach deeper water. That appears to be changing now since the board met April 20 to approve dock applications, among other business.

The city’s marina has a 331-foot dock and Tally’s has docks that extend even further. Board Chair Bryan DeSmet said Tally’s owners want dock configurations to remain the same as in past years this summer but to extend docks and add boats in 2022. 

“Our ordinance appears to not allow us to extend beyond 300 feet,” DeSmet said. “Tally’s is past that number. Just to muddy the water more, Commercial Bay historically has been given latitude in the length of docks. I would advocate the board send a letter to the DNR that approval of Tally’s permit application is in direct violation of our ordinance.”

DeSmet was referring to a revised DNR permit application from Tally’s Dockside owners Keith and Jan Dehnert that incorporates 10 slips at the Lake Avenue Marina (4453 Lake Ave. S) they recently purchased. The DNR sent the permit to the board for review and comment since the request includes a variance to 355 feet from the ordinary high water mark. 

White Bear Lake Board Member Mike Parenteau agreed that 300 feet should be the maximum dock length. “The DNR should be reminded that we have a limit that we should be able to enforce,” he said. 

DeSmet stated that the board has to make a decision at some point about sticking to the number or allowing it to expand by changing the ordinance.

The board agreed to send the DNR a letter explaining the ordinance and decided to hold a public hearing at its May 18 meeting to discuss maximum dock length and whether to change the rule. 

District counsel Alan Kantrud noted that a public hearing allows the board to “hear from those impacted and make adjustments accordingly.” 

Several board members pointed out that marinas already have their docks out and to make them change now seems “unfair.” Kantrud replied that the problem is not one brought on by the board. “Nothing changed in your books in 15 years,” he said. “These are eyes-wide-open operators. I don’t think it’s a stretch to tell them, ‘see you next month.’ They have a good idea where this is going this year.” 

— Debra Neutkens

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