Crow Wing Changes Private Road Specs to Require Quality Construction – Brainerd Dispatch


BRAINERD — Developers with an eye on Crow Wing County’s unorganized territory may reapply for approvals soon, but they’ll be met with tougher road standards and tighter technical oversight.

The county council on Tuesday, April 12, repealed an interim order establishing a moratorium on new flats to allow staff to improve regulations on private roads, particularly those built in housing estates. Also on Tuesday, the council passed new road construction specifications and approved updates to the county’s land use ordinance with more detailed requirements related to subdivision development.

Commissioners agreed to the temporary flat ban in August 2021 amid growing concerns over future maintenance headaches for residents living along substandard roads.

“We wanted to be very specific about road standards in the First Assessment District,” County Engineer Tim Bray said at Tuesday’s meeting. “We want to have a good development. We want to have roads that we can take care of that don’t become a liability to the taxpayers or the people who live on that road in terms of safety or access – emergency access – and that sort of thing.

Over the years, county officials have said there are a number of examples of the county — acting as the township government for the First Assessment District, more commonly known as unorganized territory — refusing requests from residents to take over the maintenance of private roads because they have not done so. t comply with the standards expected by the road network. Residents aren’t always aware of a road’s condition when buying a home, officials said, which can cause problems when it comes time to do snow maintenance and general maintenance.

With lax specs in the past, developers have built private roads all over Unorganized, and many are collapsing much earlier in their lifespan than expected, Bray said.

“We really want to build sustainable roads, whether it’s private roads or public roads,” he said.

The biggest change is a new requirement for a professional engineer licensed in the state of Minnesota to provide the pavement design and cost estimate. Pavements must be constructed to a minimum design of 7 tonnes, which means that the road structure, depth of the pavement and thickness of the gravel sub-base support this weight without being compromised.

Depending on the type of soil a road is built on, these measurements can vary, meaning they can’t be normalized to a specific number — another reason for the involvement of a professional engineer, Bray noted.

The specifications include some flexibility to handle developments on a case-by-case basis, depending on intended road use and expected traffic counts. More onerous requirements could come into play.

Several changes to the county’s land use ordinance also support the concept of higher standards or go hand-in-hand with the highway department’s changes in Unorganized. When developers request a preliminary plan, for example, they must now include road construction plans, financial assurance to cover the cost of building those improvements, and a developer agreement that includes a road maintenance plan. For a flat application to be considered complete, the county engineer must review and approve the construction plans and amount of insurance.

More people seeking to subdivide land into smaller lots in Unorganized will have to go through the flat application process — which is both more public and rigorous — instead of receiving subdivision approval from county staff. The ordinance change that led to this reduced the number of lots each person is allowed to administratively create to three over a five-year period. And those who receive administrative approval for lot splits must acquire an easement twice as wide as previously required – 66 feet instead of 33 feet, which corresponds to higher pavement standards.

The county also clarified the difference between a driveway and a private road in its ordinance. Driveways, under the new definition, serve one or two lots, while private roads serve more than two.

This particular question arose as the board considered the unorganized final dish it had approved before the moratorium: Barbeau Road Estates LLC. A Highways Department study of the development’s private road – which was built before it obtained county council approvals – found it failed to meet standards in four areas. It began life as a driveway to a special home, County Administrator Tim Houle said at the time.

Following the commissioner’s approval on Tuesday, the changes are set to come into effect on May 11, with the interim order establishing the moratorium repealing on May 12.

CHELSEY PERKINS, Community Editor, can be reached at 218-855-5874 or

[email protected]

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