Part of Stearns County’s unique quality is attributed to its lakes, rivers, creeks, and streams. These water features contribute to the County’s tourism, local economy, and ability to attract new residents. As a result, residential and recreational uses have developed along the lakes, especially along the Sauk River Chain of Lakes. This area includes some of the most intensive residential and recreational development in the County, with impacts on water quality and natural resources. Water bodies have limits for how much development can occur without degrading the very resource that attract development. Natural resource tourism is similarly faced with how to take advantage of the amenities that attract people without exceeding the capacity of the resource for development.
The ordinance does not provide specific thresholds for when a permit may be denied for major applications. As a result, many permits are approved with conditions. Moving forward, the County will need to consider implementing stronger tools.