Future lakeshore permitting changes discussed

Photo by Robert Williams
The final plat for Lawrence Lake Acres was approved by the Vergas Planning Commission at the first meeting of the year Monday, Jan. 22. The plat will go to the City Council for final approval in February.

By Robert Williams


The Vergas Planning Commission approved the final plat for Lawrence Lake Acres and will send it for approval at the next city council meeting. No significant changes were made to the preliminary plat that was approved a year ago.

Jim Courneya

A portion of lot one was donated to the city per city ordinance. The parks committee will add recommendations for that piece of property.

“It’s in the requirements and one thing, since I’ve been on the council, we’ve got the ordinances. If they’re not working for the city, let’s change them, but we have to live by what we have. It was a requirement of the ordinance that land be dedicated.”

Otter Tail County will be working with the city to add street lights per engineering design. 

Coming up on the plan later this year is more Class 5 will be added this coming spring, followed by seeding. 

Two more houses are already planned for the development this summer.

“We’re very excited about what you’re doing,” said commission member Rebecca Hasse.


The Planning Commission has two positions to fill each year.

Bruce Albright, city council liaison, was nominated to remain the Chairman of the commission for 2024. The Vice Chair position was open and Alex Ohman was appointed in absentia.

A new member was added to the commission in Jim Courneya, a 27-year resident of Vergas. 

Courneya held multiple roles in a 33-year career working for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, including municipal and industrial wastewater, seven years in the feedlot unit as a soil scientist and the remainder of his career in the watershed division. He retired last year.

The other members of the commission return from 2023 in Rebecca Haase, Judy Kvam and Alex Ohman.


The regular monthly meetings will continue to be held on the fourth Monday of the month. The location will be moved from the Event Center to the new Government Services building at 131 East Main. 

Nuisance Property

Albright and Utilities Superintendent Mike DuFrane were directed by city council to visit 339 East Frazee Avenue, a property that has been cited multiple times via mail to clean up the property.

When follow-up letters are required, a fine of $30 is given to the property owner. The homeowner will also be charged for further communications from the city attorney.

Multiple stops at the residence to attempt to speak to the homeowner by Albright and DuFrane have resulted in no answer at the door.

The main issue at the property is trash littering the yard and burning of trash.

In discussing nuisance properties in general, Vergas is complaint driven, which is why the city sends ordinance violation warnings prior to fines.

Construction permits

The Planning Commission has given city clerk/treasurer Julie Lammers the administrative authority to approve projects that are straightforward, along with payment of the fee with the application, according to Albright. 

The decision was made to avoid builders having to wait until the monthly meeting.

“For those builders where it is more complicated, work around the shoreline or those types of things, site work or leveling of a lot, building a garage, major things, they still come to planning and zoning,” said Albright.

Approved permits included: 451 Pelican Ave. Shingling, siding and home repairs.

Lakeshore permits

Lammers will be meeting with Chris LeClair, Otter Tail County Otter Tail County Land & Resource Management, to discuss what the commission would like to do with Lakeshore Management permits.

According to Albright, the commission has questioned whether they have the expertise to be dealing with such permits, rather than turning it over to the county.

“Would it make sense if they handled the city of Vergas for shoreline issues?” said Albright.

One requirement is that the city would have to adopt the county’s shoreline ordinance. 

Further complications can come from working below the Ordinary High Water (OHW) mark, where the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has jurisdiction.

Albright noted that approximately 90 percent of Vergas lake lots are already developed.

The city’s ordinance has not been updated since the mid 1980’s. Any updates can be more restrictive than the county or state, but not less restrictive.

Permit follow-up

The commission discussed better follow-up on inspecting construction done under permits to verify compliance. Albright and Kvam took over duties in 2023 and were reappointed to continue to do so this year.