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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Polk County commissioners award conditional use permit at non-profit youth ranch on former River Bend property

  • They do so, reluctantly, however; Lester family not represented at meeting.
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  • The Polk County Board of Commissioners this week reluctantly agreed to a conditional use permit for the Lester family in rural East Grand Forks. Ben and Caryl Lester, who renovated the old Riverbend Supper Club property into a non-profit, faith-based youth ranch, were in need of a dirt dike on the west side of their house. The Lesters were afraid the Red Lake River might flood the land – the golf course was severely damaged by the Red River flood of 1997 – so the Lesters built the dike without approval of the county board, commissioners said Tuesday.
    Josh Holte with the county Planning and Zoning Department came forward with the request for a conditional use permit on behalf of the Lester family, which was not represented at the meeting. Holte explained that it was most likely an oversight by the family. The Lesters agreed to pay penalty fees and had previously been approved by the Red Lake Watershed District and Department of Natural Resources, Holte said. Commissioners asked Holte if the property had been inspected for possible runoff issues on either side of their dike, and Holte said it had.
    District 2 Commissioner Warren Strandell, while thinking of motioning for approval, added, "This situation needs to be monitored. They have a history of letting things slide."
    The Lester family also failed their septic system inspection, Holte said, which they will have two years to upgrade.
    According to information from their website and Facebook page, the Lester's "Stable Days Youth Ranch," which opened in late 2011, works with disadvantaged children, wounded youth and struggling families. They provide mentoring and hands-on experience with their horses. There is no cost to families and the visits run 60-90 minutes. They have had a lot of positive feedback from the community and continue to look for donations and volunteers.

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