Boat slips on Prior Lake

Prior Lake is considering reining in boat slips within the city.

Ordinance changes headed to the City Council next week would cut down on the ballooning number of boat slips and illegal slip rentals on city lakes, city staff members said.

Among other things, the proposal would allow homeowner associations one slip per 50 feet of shoreline, up from one slip per about 19 feet, and would limit private residences to five slips instead of six.

The city’s 13 lakeshore homeowners associations have a combined right to 424 slips that would be grandfathered into the ordinance, meaning the new slip-to-shore ratio wouldn’t affect them.

Renting personal boat slips is illegal, but the proposal would let the city require proof of tenancy and ownership to make sure residents are keeping with the ordinance.

Several residents at the commission meeting said they favored the changes, though some questioned who the changes really served.

Dana Wheeler, a longtime resident on Lower Prior Lake, said the changes represented “favoritism” to homeowners associations and scapegoated inland city residents trying to appreciate the lakes.

“I don’t know that who owns the boat impacts the number of boats on the lake,” Wheeler said, adding he had allowed his friends and neighbors to use multiple slips on his property over the years.

“Twelve or 13 complaints is much less significant than the number of people that will be impacted by the change to the law that says it has to be the owner of the property that owns the boat,” Wheeler said, referring to the number of slip rental complaints the city had last year.

Liz Weninger, a former member of the Lakes Advisory Community, voiced similar concerns.

“We must take everybody and hope and pray that they know how to treat a lake and how to act on the lakes,” Weninger said. “We can’t say we don’t want you here. We want to welcome everybody here.”

Community Development Director Casey McCabe in an interview said the changes don’t give preference to one kind of resident or another.

“What this ordinance does is it makes it easier for staff to enforce existing regulations,” McCabe said. “The ordinances related to (associations) are to provide more realistic expectations for future developers and residents of the community.”

According to city documents, two properties on Lower Prior Lake that are expected to be developed have about 1,325 feet of shoreline and could install 70 boat slips. If the new language is approved, each would only be able to install 25 slips.