Whose Views?


Construction Plans on River Bluff Cause Conflict

The Minnesota DNR objects to design and location of house overlooking the river in Lakeland.

Existing house at 641 Quixote Ave, Lakeland

Existing house at 641 Quixote Ave, Lakeland (Photo via realtor.com)

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources filed and promptly withdrew a lawsuit last week, seeking to stop construction on a home overlooking the river in Lakeland, Minnesota.

According to the Pioneer Press, the agency says it will try to work with the city and the homeowners to resolve the conflict:

Lakeland this summer approved Michael and Kathleen Quinn’s plans to raze a one-story house at 641 Quixote Ave. N. and replace it with a five-bedroom house and three-car attached garage.

The DNR, which is charged with protecting the scenic riverway, objected to the planned construction of the house about 14 feet from the bluff and the garage and a three-season porch about 5 feet away. State rules require construction to be 40 feet from the bluff to try to preserve a natural scenic view from the river.

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The homeowners, Michael and Kathleen Quinn, say their construction options are limited due to the size and shape of their lot and the location of a drainfield.

In an article published before the DNR withdrew the lawsuit, Kathleen said they want to be “good stewards,” and believe their construction plans would be less obtrusive:

State rules require the house be 40 feet from the bluff line. The Quinns’ house would be about 14 feet from the bluff; the attached garage and three-season porch would be 5 feet away.

The Quinns bought the land with “those constraints in place,” said Molly Shodeen, area hydrologist with the DNR. “Maybe a five-bedroom house and a three-car garage is not reasonable on this lot.”

The existing house, built in 1954, is a one-story walkout; the property has a detached two-stall garage. The Quinns want to build a 3,000-square-foot two-story Prairie-style walkout.

“We really tried to design a house that would blend into the environment,” Quinn said. “It has a very low roofline and natural colors. We tried to stay in the same footprint, so that it would not be an obtrusive home. It is not a massive home. We’re really trying to improve the property and be less obvious and less obtrusive than what is there now.”

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The DNR disagrees, stating that the house design may not be appropriate for the lot, and that the rules are in place to protect the scenic views for people on the river.

Update 8/21: Kathleen and Michael Quinn sent the following email to the Pioneer Press and a copy to St. Croix 360, correcting several inaccuracies in the newspaper’s coverage:

  1. We never proposed a 5 bedroom house, I’m not sure where you got that information but it is  incorrect.  Our plan calls for a 4 bedroom home.
  2. The DNR never raised any concerns about the 3-season porch (sunroom) to us until they filed the lawsuit.  The porch, as the garage would not be visible from the river due to the screening of trees on the bluff.
  3. We’re not sure what the “front porch” is, we don’t have one in our design.  We do have a ramp that  leads to the front door to make our home handicap accessible.
  4. The current house is 8 feet off the bluff and is white making it stand out among the trees.  The proposed home was moved back from the bluff line as per the DNR request and will be 14 feet back and less visible from the river.
  5. I invited Chris Wallberg, Lakeland City Clerk and Molly Shodeen to walk our property with me before we started to make plans for our property.  I asked for suggestions and guidance. Once we started the process Chris Wallberg and my husband requested a meeting with all interested parties, DNR, city, WMO to look over our proposal and make suggestions.  The claim that the DNR was not aware or informed is not accurate.
Conservation news on St. Croix 360 is supported by the St. Croix River Association, which works to protect, restore and celebrate the St. Croix River and its watershed.

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