Decision on re-zoning request for zip line tabled

The developers of a West Highway 61 parcel were given until 
mid-June to persuade adjacent property owners that their plan to 
rezone 21 acres from Permanent Residential to Recreational Commercial 
is the best use of the site.
That was the decision of Grand Marais city councilors March 14 when 
they tabled a vote on the proposal which, if ultimately approved, will
enable the petitioners to build a zip line on the site. The planning 
commission considered the request from Matt Geretschlaeger and HRH 
Highway 61 LLC a week prior to council’s meeting, and recommended 
approval by unanimous vote. However, some members of council said they 
were uncomfortable with the plan.
Citing letters received and comments made before the planning 
commission from owners of adjacent property, Councilor Bill Lenz said 
he couldn’t back the rezoning unless and until consent was given by 
all of the residents whose property bordered the site. Lenz said he 
believes that if people buy a piece of land which is surrounded by 
property zoned residential, they should be able to expect that the 
property will remain residential.
Mayor Larry Carlson also voiced concern about the project, saying he 
feared a zip line would be a “move toward Disneyland.” “It just 
doesn’t fit with what we’re all about,” he said, adding that if 
he were in the same situation as the affected residents on Harborview 
Trail, he’d want his neighborhood to be kept in the same zoning 
classification it was in when purchased.
Councilor Jan Sivertson didn’t express any qualms about the plan, but 
said it was important to ensure that there was an adequate buffer 
around the enterprise, as the property in question adjoins residential 
lots.
In response to the comments, Geretschlaeger said the ordinance 
requires a 50-foot buffer, but plans call for at least 100 feet with 
ample screening, and he didn’t believe noise would be a problem; 
opposition from neighbors is dwindling, as evidenced from the fact 
that none of those who complained at the planning commission meeting a 
week earlier were in attendance at the council meeting; one resident 
who sent a letter opposing the rezoning and zip line has withdrawn her 
complaint; and the zone change is really the least impactful use of 
the property and affords the city a greater level of control than it 
would have if left in its present zone district.
Furthermore, Geretschlaeger pointed out, he was only asking council to 
consider the rezoning request at the present time. Once that is 
approved, he said, he will have to come back to present plans for the 
zip line and ask for a conditional use permit.
“I would expect concerns due to the unknowns—it’s human 
nature,” Geretschlaeger said. “But I can assure you that I’ll 
have all of the information you need here later, and a team of experts 
on zip lines will be here to make a presentation and answer all of 
your questions.”