Earlier this year I bookmarked a site I read about somewhere of which I can’t recall. The site is called SunCalc and what it does is show you the sun is at during the day at a location you specify and a date you specify. Really cool. The screenshot on the left shows you the sun today at Arrowwood Resort in Alexandria. It is an especially handy tool for anyone building a home or planning a landscape project.
Many of you won’t need to read this blog post. But there will always be people that are new to buying lake properties. This is for them.
In Douglas County, there are three lake classifications. General Development, Recreational Development and Natural Environment. Each has minimums for lake frontage, lot size and lot depth. If a lake lot was platted prior to the requirements being set by the county, they are grandfathered it. The lot still has to meet the setback rules for each classification and are labeled non-conforming lots. If there is a dwelling on the property and the owner wishes to add on to the dwelling or add another structure such as a garage, the county needs to visit to approve it and grant a variance because it is a non-conrforming lot. It really isn’t that big of a deal as the owner would need to get permits from the county regardless and unless the new addition meets setback requirements and the impervious surface rule (not more than 25% of your land can be impervious surface) there is a very small chance of a problem. But, the chance the variance wouldn’t be granted is an asterisk on the lot.
The big reminder is for someone buying more than the minimum lake frontage or buying two seperate parcels that adjoin. If someone owns a lot at Lake Carlos (a General Development lake) with 190 feet of frontage, they can never split the lot into two as the minimum amount of frontage is 100 feet. If they hade 200 feet that could be split into two lots that would each have the minimum lot depth and lot size, thumbs up. However, if they didn’t, bad luck. I know of someone that bought a Lake Miltona property about a decade ago and the lot adjacent to them went on the market. It was a non-conforming lot but this didn’t effect the sale or their ability or someone else’s ability to build on it. No problem. The problem arrived when they decided it was time to sell their lake property. Beacuse they owned both adjacent parcels they could only sell them together because split into two, no matter if they had the lot lines adjusted, one of the parcels was non-conforming. If the non-conforming parcel had been been put in a different name, a trust for example, or bought by a different party, it could have been sold on its own.
One really good thing about non-conforming lake lots. Price. Because a big part of the purchase price is the dirt and specifically the amount at the lake, they often allow people to get on their favorite lake at a price that fits their budget.
Are you considering purchasing a home on a lake in Alexandria or in a residential neighborhood? My advice is that you should start a conversation with a local REALTOR. Whether it is myself or a competitor at another real estate brokerage, you will have an advantage if you have a full-time and local REALTOR as a partner. One of the most valuable advantages is that you probably will learn of upcoming listings prior to a home being entered into Alexandria’s Multiple Listing Service. My office consistently is one of the most active listing offices in Alexandria and buyers working with myself or a partner can get in to visit a home first and prior to other buyers. There is no pressure if you contact me. My goal no matter how long it takes is to have someone be happy after they close on a purchase. Last year a couple I had been working with for over five years closed on the purchase of a Lake Carlos property. That may be a new record.
Buyers should also have a good mobile resource for real estate listings. Alexmn.com, is optimized for mobile devices and my Google Analytics data reports that nearly 50% of visitors to my site each day are using a phone or tablet. My iPhone and iPad are loaded with many real estate apps (Counselor Realty, Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com and more) but I use my site when I am mobile and want to pull up listing info. The reason is that apps such as Zillow and Trulia are notorious for having errors and I prefer being able to focus quickly on a specific lake. On Zillow and Trulia I’ll often see listings that are no longer active or won’t find listings that are active and available for purchase. The pricing information is more accurate on Alexmn.com too as the backbone of my listing information is provided by the same Fargo company, FBS, that is the backbone of Alexandria’s MLS.
A missing feature on the mobile version of my site is the capability to use GPS to show you listings based on your location. For that capability, you should apps such as those provide by Counselor Realty, Zillow and Trulia (text LAKE to 320-298-4446 to receive a link to the Counselor app). It has all the capabilities of the Zillow and Trulia app such as being able to filter search results by drawing on a map but also has accurate information.
Weeds should be loved by people that enjoy Alexandria’s lakes. Aquatic wildlife loves them and it helps them thrive which is could for everyone. But, based on the lakefront real estate is most in demand, the majority of people don’t like them and I won’t deny that it is my preference to have my feet touch sand only. In Alexandria, there are many beautiful lakes and an abundance of appealing real estate at each of those lakes but lakeshore with nothing but sand on the bottom is scarce, and expensive.
During visits to lake homes or lake lots for sale with prospective buyers and if there is some emergent or submergent vegetation at the property, I’ll often be asked what can be done so I am going to share below information that is from a page of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources web-site that lays out what is or isn’t permitted. My advice is that if you have any questions at all, contact the local DNR office or the Douglas County Land & Resource Management office. It is better to error on the side of doing what is best for the lake and it has been my experience that the DNR and Land and Resource Management of of Douglas County are very reasonable. I’ve been told ‘no’ by Land and Resource Management in the past when I wanted a variance for a deck and at the time, I wasn’t pleased but now understand the reasoning. They simply want to protect the quality of our lakes and their inhabitants which is good for everyone.
Under Minnesota law, aquatic plants growing in public waters are the property of the state. Because of their value to the lake ecosystem, they may not be destroyed or transplanted unless authorized by the Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources as stipulated in the Aquatic Plant Management Rules. A “public water” is generally any body of water 2.5 acres or larger within an incorporated city limit, or 10 acres or larger in rural areas. If you are unsure whether a particular lake is public, please contact your local DNR office.
Activities NOT allowed:
- Excavating the lake bottom for aquatic plant control
- Use of hydraulic jets
- Destroying or preventing the growth of aquatic plants by using lake bottom barriers.
- Removing aquatic vegetation within posted fish-spawning areas.
- Removing aquatic plants from an undeveloped shoreline.
- Removing aquatic plants where they do not interfere with swimming, boating, or other recreation.
Control methods which MUST HAVE a permit
- Destruction of any emergent vegetation (for example, cattails and bulrushes).
- Cutting or pulling by hand, or by mechanical means, submerged vegetation in an area larger than 2,500 square feet.
- Applying herbicides or algicides.
- Moving or removing a bog of any size that is free-floating or lodged in any area other than its place of origin in public waters.
- Transplanting aquatic plants into public waters.
- Use of automated aquatic plant control devices (such as the Crary WeedRoller).
- Physical removal of floating-leaf vegetation from an area larger than a channel 15 feet wide extending to open water.
When a permit is NOT needed
If you are a lakeshore property owner who wants to create or maintain a swimming or boat-docking area, you may cut or pull submerged vegetation, such as Elodea, without a DNR permit under certain conditions:
First, the area to be cleared must be no larger than 2,500 square feet. Second, the cleared area must not extend more than 50 feet along the shoreline or one-half the length of your shoreline, whichever is less.
A boat channel up to 15 feet wide, and as long as necessary to reach open water, may also be cleared, through submerged vegetation. (The boat channel is in addition to the 2,500 square feet allowed). The cutting or pulling may be done by hand or with hand-operated or powered equipment that does not significantly alter the course, current, or cross-section of the lake bottom. Such control cannot be done with draglines, bulldozers, hydraulic jets, suction dredges, automated aquatic plant control devices, or other powered earth-moving equipment. After you have cut or pulled aquatic plants, you must dispose of them on land to prevent them from drifting onto your neighbor’s property or washing back into the lake. In addition, a channel 15 feet wide through floating-leaf vegetation extending to open water may be maintained by mechanical means without a permit. Any other destruction of floating-leaf vegetation requires a permit. If you have questions on control activities that do not require a permit, please contact your local DNR office.
If you plan to dispose of the aquatic vegetation someplace other than on your property you will need to download the aquatic plant transport authorization form. This form allows you to transport the aquatic vegetation to a suitable location for disposal.
A DNR permit is not needed to gather aquatic plants for personal use (except for wild rice) or for constructing a shooting or observation blind.
Applying for a permit
To apply for a permit, contact the Aquatic Plant Management Program or the closest regional office. The DNR does not grant permits automatically. Site inspections are required for first time permits. Applications may be denied or modified. To ensure that plant control is done correctly and with proper care for the environment, take these three steps:
- If herbicides are permitted carefully read the product label and follow all instructions.
- Notify the DNR before control operations begin, as specified on the permit.
- Post signs that identify the area that will be treated with an herbicide. These signs are included with the permit or are furnished by the DNR to the commercial applicator. There may be water use restrictions required on the product label for swimming, fish consumption, irrigation, or household use until the herbicide is broken down or has been diluted to safe levels. You will be asked to report the actual size of the controlled area and the amount of chemical used. This will help the DNR monitor statewide use of aquatic herbicides in public waters.
If you are inexperienced or uncomfortable applying herbicides, you may want to hire a licensed pesticide applicator. These applicators will frequently help you obtain a permit as part of their services. There are also companies that will mechanically harvest aquatic plants for hire.
In Douglas County there are three lake classifications. Lakes such as Carlos and Miltona are in the General Development classification. Lakes in this classification have the least restrictive rules for property owners. Next in line are Recreational Development lakes such as Chippewa and Lobster. The classification that is most restrictive is Natural Environment. A few examples are Moon and Mina. [Read more…]