Marina operators denied request for longer docks

WHITE BEAR LAKE — Dock length in Commercial Bay will remain at 300 feet. 

Both the city and Tally’s Dockside asked the White Bear Lake Conservation District to amend its ordinance and allow 345-foot docks. 

Tally’s owner Keith Dehnert did not speak at a public hearing on the matter Oct. 19, but sent a letter to the board saying he needed an extension because the elevation change from his building to the water requires a 30-foot ramp to accommodate wheelchair access. The ramp requires an extension out into the lake. Low water depth at the water’s edge was also cited as a reason for longer docks.

Docks of White Bear owner Brian McGoldrick, Tally’s neighbor, pointed out that the DNR has a provision in its handbook regarding access to navigable waters when lake levels are low, which they’re not now.

The marina operator asked the district board to abide by what the DNR allows. "Whatever is on their permit for length is what you should have," he maintained, adding that marina benefits should be tied to assets. 

According to McGoldrick, White Bear Shopping Center owns 78% of Commercial Bay’s shoreline. Docks of White Bear, a tenant, owns 40% of the slips.

In his letter to the board, Dehnert mentioned a new dock placed by Docks of White Bear at the end of Whitaker Street prior to the July Fourth holiday that he said obstructs navigation to Tally’s gas dock. The dock is very close to the authorized dock usage area (ADUA) property line extension near the shoreline. "This dock should not be allowed in this location," Dehnert wrote the board and cited an ordinance that states "no dock shall be so located to obstruct navigable waters."

Board members did not bring up Tally’s beef about the dock. They did discuss the possibility of having no limit on length or doing what McGoldrick suggested and leaving it up to the DNR. 

The city has the longest dock at 331 feet. Its DNR permit allows 288 feet.

"You’ve been very patient with Commercial Bay," Counsel Alan Kantrud told the board. "Basically, everyone there has docks beyond 300 feet." 

White Bear Lake Director Mike Parenteau pointed out that dock length is the only way to control the number of boats in the bay. Obviously, the longer the docks, the more slips marina operators can rent. "They would just keep adding slips if there was no limit," he said. "There are almost 500 boats in there now, and it gets pretty congested." 

Before water levels dropped, the 300-foot maximum was fine, observed Mahtomedi Director Mark Ganz. "Now that water levels are up, it’s not OK anymore. This request for an extension is substantial. One of my fears is if water levels drop below 922 feet again, docks are going to be that much farther out into the lake."  

The board took no action on the request, so the ordinance stands. 

The next Commercial Bay issue on the agenda discussed penalties for marinas exceeding permitted boat numbers. 

Kantrud said the district has ignored adherence to permits. 

"It’s reasonable to suggest that since water levels came up, enforcement has been lax," he said. "When levels were down, we ignored them. Maybe to our detriment." 

Marina operators are reminded of ordinances from time to time through district correspondence, but as far as Kantrud knows, no one has been cited for noncompliance. 

As a "body politic," the board can call law enforcement to give anyone going beyond their permit a ticket, he said. Such citations are misdemeanors that can be coupled with a $700 fine, per day, plus a day in court. 

The board is considering a suggestion to penalize operators who do not abide by the law by taking away slips.

 

"For example," Ganz explained. "If a marina licensed for 100 slips has 105 boats (counted by drone), they are warned. If a second drone flyover again counts 105 boats, the marina is penalized five slips, or 95, the next two years."

The board will review penalty language drafted by counsel at its November meeting.

 

In other business Oct. 19, the board:

• Heard "bad news" from Kantrud that the "aggressive" DNR conservation officer assigned to the area, Ryan Hanna, took a supervisor job at Whitefish Chain of Lakes. "They haven’t figured out how to backfill that position for us," noted Kantrud, who said a new officer should be in place next year.

• Heard a comment from Ganz that he’s noticing private docks with three or four pontoon boats attached. "I find it odd," he said, "since residents aren’t allowed to let people use their docks. I don’t know why someone would need that many pontoon boats." Ganz said he wanted to mention it for the listening public. 

• Heard from Parenteau that phragmites treatment around the lake was successful. A September survey found 13,600 square feet needing treatment, which was done Sept. 28. A $976 Anoka County grant paid for treatment.

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