DNR approves Lake Elmo’s lake use ordinances

After four months of “thorough” review, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has approved changes made to Lake Elmo’s lake surface use ordinances this spring.

The city’s amended ordinances, which expanded wake-creating activity hours on lakes Jane, Demontreville and Olson, were met with harsh criticism from shoreline property owners. They argued that the longer hours — sunrise to sunset on weekdays and 9 a.m. to sunset on weekends and holidays — could lead to noisy motorboats and jet skis using the lakes as early as 5:30 a.m.

One of residents’ main concerns, in addition to noise issues, was the environmental impact of the increased wake on the shallow lakes, particularly Lake Jane. Shallow lakes, the DNR said in May, are more susceptible to shoreline erosion due to wake-creating activities. Despite a petition submitted by several lakeshore homeowners, DNR staff ultimately ruled that an environmental assessment was not necessary.

The DNR’s evaluation of the ordinances is detailed in an agenda item from the council’s Sept. 17 meeting. The item states that two minor changes were made to the ordinances, both regarding the high water mark language. The changes include the application of a no-wake rule immediately after high water marks are exceeded and reducing the waiting period to lift the no-wake rule from five days to three days.

As for the lake surface use hours, the DNR “concurred with Lake Elmo that the expansion of use time was not at odds with state law and should pose no problem for the lakes,” the agenda item states. “Staff/Council surveillance of the lakes this summer seem to prove this point definitively.”

Homeowner Susan Hawkinson, who owns property on Olson Lake Trail, reiterated her disapproval of the council’s decision in a letter, stating, “In my opinion, the City Council missed an opportunity to rectify an injustice...(and) allowed the will of that vocal minority to override the expressed will of a proven majority.”

— Johanna Holub

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