WORTHINGTON — Ten months after Paul Langseth was granted a conditional use permit to operate the Langseth Lodge, a rentable cabin on his property along the easternmost shoreline of Lake Ocheda, he was back before the Nobles County Planning Commission Wednesday night to respond to complaints brought forth by neighbors who happen to be his brother, sister-in-law, nieces and nephew.
Alan, Carol, Jamie and Justin Langseth all spoke during the public hearing, while another daughter, Jennifer Hieb, submitted her comments via email to Planning and Zoning Administrator Kathy Henderschiedt.
In their request for an early review of a permit granted last September, the Alan Langseth family said Paul Langseth isn’t abiding by conditions of the permit — primarily dust control.
When the permit was granted, a condition stated Paul must apply water on 280th Street from Sundberg Avenue west to the private drive leading to Langseth Lodge during any event in which 20 or more people are hosted at the cabin. Paul said Wednesday night he misunderstood the requirements. He thought water only needed to be applied when he rented the lodge, not for other events on his property.
During the nearly two-hour discussion, Henderschiedt told Paul Langseth that any event on his property consisting of 20 people or more — even if it’s his own family gathering — is governed by the CUP, and that he must abide by the conditions whether the cabin is rented or not.
Jamie Langseth was the first to speak out during the public hearing, taking issue with dust created by vehicles traveling to and from the lodge, people trespassing onto the Alan Langseth property on the north side of 280th Street (Paul’s property is on the south side of 280th Street), and traffic going by at all hours of the day and late into the night.
She presented planning commission members with an assortment of trail cam photos showing dust in the air, noting specific times and dates and stating whether her uncle had or had not applied water to the road on those dates.
While Jamie said she didn’t have a problem with single-family stays at the cabin, her concerns were with larger groups. She mentioned three specific dates — Oct. 10, 2020, when more than 50 students were on site for an archery event hosted by Paul that did not involve cabin rental; Oct. 18, 2020, when Roger Langseth (brother to Paul and Alan) and his family stayed at the cabin; and May 21-24, when a quartet of sisters rented the cabin and invited their families out for the Saturday. Paul did not provide dust control for the first two events, and she said it was inadequate for the third.
Jamie also noted that at one time, she found a lodge guest standing near the high voltage electric fence on her parents’ property and voiced concerns over being liable if someone gets hurt on their land. The fencing is for their family’s cattle.
Justin Langseth complained about how the dust was affecting the eyes of his cattle, which are raised for show stock, and said late-night traffic is disruptive.
“We don’t want to live next door to everyone’s party shack,” he said. “I get they’re on vacation, but this is where we live.”
Justin said the lodge is a single-family home on a lake — not a resort — and contended the condition allowing for a maximum occupancy not to exceed 20 overnight guests at the cabin and 100 guests during an event was too high.
“That’s a ridiculous amount of people for that place,” he said. “(Paul would) rent it out to 100 people every day if he could. That’s not what the ag preservation district is about — and it’s also not what a dead-end road is about.”
Hieb said in her email that despite Paul Langseth telling the commission last August that he wouldn’t rent the cabin to people he didn’t know, she discovered it listed on VRBO, a Vacation Rental by Owner online marketplace, this spring.
“From the very start, he lied about his intentions with this property,” she said.
Hieb’s request was that more conditions be placed on the permit, that existing conditions be clarified, that a smaller time frame be set to reassess the permit, and that clear consequences and fines be set in place for when conditions are not met. Other family members echoed those requests.
“He’s violated the conditions you’ve set for him already,” Jamie added. “I want to live in the middle of nowhere. I want my garden. I want to raise my livestock. His want to have a rental property shouldn’t override my want to be left alone.”
Henderschiedt told commission members more conditions can't be added to an existing permit, but existing conditions can be amended. Six were put in place when the permit was granted, but neighbors addressed only two of them — dust control and maximum occupancy.
Commission member Marty Rickers, who visited the site last month and observed the dust, said water isn’t enough and something more substantial should be used to abate it.
Henderschiedt suggested Langseth use a calcium chloride, magnesium chloride or some type of environmentally friendly soy-based product to control dust. However, as was pointed out by Vande Kamp, the planning commission cannot dictate how dust control is handled.
“I don’t think you have the authority to tell the township what to do with the road,” Vande Kamp said. “For you to say he has to put calcium chloride down overrides the authority of the township.”
Henderschiedt said the commission has placed conditions on permits previously regarding dust control, particularly for gravel pits, but it’s up to the discretion of the landowner or township on the product used. An amended condition was approved requiring dust control be in place by May 1 of each year on 830 feet of 280th Street, which is Al Langseth’s full property line, plus 100 feet on either side of it.
Henderschiedt also asked Paul Langseth to remove from his VRBO listing the availability of RV camping onsite, as that requires a separate permit that he does not have.
While the Alan Langseth family wanted more restrictions placed on occupancy, the commission did not take action to amend that condition of the permit.
As for their other requests, Nobles County Attorney Joe Sanow said some of the issues raised by the Alan Langseth family were civil issues and did not pertain to the conditional use permit. Addressing a request that Paul Langseth not advertise the lodge on VRBO or another online option for large events or weddings, Sanow said the county does not restrict him from operating his business.
Also, since the commission could not create new conditions on the permit, board chairman Dave Thier advised Paul Langseth to take some of the requests made Wednesday night by the Alan Langseth family into consideration.
“While we may not have the authority to control some of the issues here tonight, is there a way you can play a more active role in … highlighting the need to control traffic and be more respectful of trespassing signs?” Thier asked Paul Langseth. “I think it’s in your best interest to alleviate as much as you can. Our hands are tied.”
Carol Langseth, who at one point during the meeting suggested Paul put in a separate road to the cabin, asked if there were any repercussions if he didn’t abide by the conditions of the permit.
“If you’re a farmer, there are consequences for you doing what you’ve been told not to do,” she said. “(Otherwise) we keep inching over the line and doing more and more.
“There needs to be some clear definition where his property ends and ours begins. Everybody should stay on their side of the road and quit spilling over onto ours.”
The amended permit will advance to the Nobles County Board of Commissioners for consideration at its next meeting, slated to begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday.