City’s new lake rules now in DNR’s hands

Council passes amended no-wake ordinance during lengthy meeting

Three of Lake Elmo’s four popular recreational lakes could see new no-wake and boat travel direction guidelines depending on a DNR review of the new ordinance approve by the City Council Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of Lake Elmo)
Three of Lake Elmo’s four popular recreational lakes could see new no-wake and boat travel direction guidelines depending on a DNR review of the new ordinance approve by the City Council Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of Lake Elmo)

LAKE ELMO — Hours of work by the Lake Elmo City Council Tuesday to fashion an amended no-wake ordinance governing four city lakes is now in the hands of the state.

City Administrator Dean Zuleger said the city will send its new no-wake ordinance affecting Lake Elmo, Lake Jane, Lake Olson and Demontreville Lake to the state Department of Natural Resources for review.

When Tuesday’s council meeting ended about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, the panel unanimously passed an amended measure that maintains existing no-wake rules on Lake Elmo, provides different no-wake times on weekdays and weekends and holidays on Lakes Jane and Olson, restricts buoy placement on the lakes and requires ski boats and other fast watercraft to travel counterclockwise on lakes and canoes and other non-wake producing watercraft travel clockwise.

“The early indications are those different times might be a problem for the DNR,” Zuleger said.

He added that the direction rules are “common and recommended by some organizations like the American Water Ski Association.”

Zuleger said the council originally considered changing the city’s no-wake ordinance to open the four lakes to more recreational use. All four lakes are heavily used, with public boat launches on Lake Elmo, Jane and Demontreville.

“We have small, shallow lakes that get congested,” he said. “Anecdotally, if you would set up at a boat ramp at noon, it’s like that scene in ‘Jaws’ where everybody wants to go out and catch the shark.”

Zuleger said he received a “flurry” of last-minute input on the original proposal prior to Tuesday’s council meeting. The comments ran slightly more than 2-to-1 against the measure, he added.

Zuleger acknowledged that there was a generational split on the no-wake proposal, with older lake side residents supporting the existing rules and younger lake side residents wanting relaxed wake rules.

In an email to the council, Lake Elmo lake side residents Melissa and Tony Miller urged rejection of the proposed no-wake changes.

“By changing the current water surface use ordinances, you are negating an entire population of lake users,” the Millers write.

The couple argued that Lake Elmo’s current no-wake hours from sunset to noon divides lake use between quiet time in the mornings and high speed activities the rest of the day. The Millers also argued in favor of maintaining the counter-clockwise lake traffic direction provision.

“Lake Elmo is too narrow not to have this provision. As it is now, the lake is quite crowded on the weekends and the counter-clockwise provision at least lends to some semblance of order during these days. If boats can go any way, this would only lead to injuries, if not deaths,” the couple said.

Another group opposing the wake rule changes was a Catholic Carmelite monastery and retreat facility on  Lake Demontreville, according to Zuleger. He said the facility is used for reflective retreats on weekends and the city wants to respect the facility’s desire for quiet activities.

“We’re really going to work hard on people not from Lake Elmo to respect that Catholic complex,” he said. “That, to me, was one of the most compelling arguments made last night. They’ve been there 50 years.”

Zuleger also said the city plans stricter enforcement of parking rules, especially in the area of Demontreville Lake, where boaters park vehicles and trailers on streets, creating narrow space for through vehicles.

Zuleger said he believes most residents at Tuesday’s meeting were satisfied with the amended ordinance the council passed on a 5-0 vote.

“While not perfect, people left the room feeling like the council listened to them,” he said.

But Zuleger warned that the DNR could return the wake-rule measure to the council for possible changes.

“My guess is we might be looking at this again after the DNR review,” he said. “Local communities have control of those lakes within the community boundaries. But the DNR gets to comment. We’ll see what happens with the DNR review. They’ve been very good, from the city staff’s standpoint, to work with.”

  • Rick Weil

    Mr Zuleger, I don’t know what psychotropic drugs you were on during that meeting but in NO WAY were most residents satisfied with the vote outcome. Also, Mr Bloyer seems to be doing well at driving a wedge between “younger” and “older” residents since his one plank platform of last Fall.

    • dean zuleger

      Mr. Weil:

      I believe my actual quote was that people were satsified that the Council restored the counter-clockwise provision — it may have got lost in the translation over the phone. But I have heard from many who were at the meeting that they were glad that the original proposal was amended — and we will continue to look at the timing issue on the Tri-Lakes. Thanks for your concern over my mental health…

  • Charlie Schultz

    So, much for what the people want. We spoke and no one listened, evidently. Going against the retreat house was the wrong thing to do. “Bad Ju Ju” for sure. It’s not so much about the regs as it is the way they went about changing them. First time around, just Lake Jane, then leave out Lake Elmo. What’s next?

  • patrick sinclair

    I too was at the City Council meeting and I don’t know how anyone could possibly, in anyway shape, or form, come to the conclusion that the “people exiting the meeting were satisfied with the amended ordinance.”

    Of the 67 people that spoke at the council meeting, at least 61 were against changing the “present” ordinance. In other words, they were against the amended ordinance. How anyone at the meeting could possibly believe otherwise is ludicrous.

    It seemed to me, that the council had already predetermined, through coercion of Mr Bloyer and Mr Pearson that they WERE going to change the ordinance, regardless of what the lakeshore homeowners wanted.

    They had no empathy for the homeowners.

    Top that with the fact that the changing of the ordinance was brought up by Mr Bloyer at 11pm in the March council meeting, when no one is in attendance, and no one watching the local channel. Seems like a bully trying to get his agenda passed before anyone is aware of what happened.

    This is absolute madness!! This is not the people’s city council, this is the “council’s” Council. They do what they want regardless of citizen input.

  • kathy Sinclair

    I attended the council meeting and came away with an entirely different perspective of what happened. The majority of the people were extremely upset by the outcome. The city is not respecting the Retreats want for quiet. The city didn’t care. We did NOT feel like the city listened to anyone. One of the council people looked bored and discussed while thinking about his skiing association. One other didn’t know what she had voted on when they finally voted. Mr Zuleger wants everyone to listen and respect which is good. However, no matter how you feel this was handled underhanded and one way. I have never in my 30 years of living here was I so disheartened. If the MAJORITY of the people want change then it shoud be accepted. Supposedly that majority choose to remain anonymous. That is what we were told. The city doesn’t moniter the cars and trailers parked illegally now how will they do it in the future. One YOUNG couple bought out here because of the quiet. It’s a shame our community is going thru this disfunction when our city manager is promoting peace!!

  • Deb McQuiston

    I watched the meeting from 8:00-11:00 pm. During these three hours, I saw four people in favor of the proposal. Three of them are 50 or over and one is 17. How is this a generational issue? With each person allowed to speak for three minutes, we would have heard 60 people in this time span. The count was approximately 55 against and 4 in favor, equating to @ 13 – 1. How, Mr. Zuleger, are you trying to have us believe it was anywhere near 2-1? Is it your job to support your mayor and council by skewing the facts? Most residents are satisfied with this?? I think you’ll be finding out how dissatisfied residents really are, with more to come. Let’s hope the DNR shuts this down!

  • Barbara Walsh

    Star Tribune reported that the boat launches don’t open till noon. Not true, the launches on Demontreville and Jane are not time restricted, they are accessable 24/7. I for one will note vote for any current council member or Mayor at the next election. Also, many residents were not able to voice their opinions because they are not back from their winter homes yet. I hope that our residents will vote these bums out.