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Photo credit: Big Sand, Viola Lake Area Concerned Citizens

The Land Use and Information committee voted to deny a conditional use permit with no opposing votes for a campground near Big Sand and Viola lakes.

The conditional use permit states the application is requesting to build 125 campsites to be developed over three years. The application, submitted by Brian and Melissa Bocan, proposed each site will be up to 400 square feet with decks/porches/patios/awnings and each site will have a shed up to 250 square feet.

About 140 people were in attendance for the public discussion regarding the campground.

“Burnett County needs people like us,” Brian Bocan said. He told the Land Use and Information Committee on Tuesday that he has heard from residents since 2017 that the county needs young people willing to start businesses here.

The 125 sites will sit on about 21 acres between Big Sand Lake and Viola Lake. Bocan said they are not offering a boat landing on the campground.

Big Sand, Viola Lake Area Concerned Citizens or BSVLACC is opposed to the campground. An online petition gained almost 650 signatures in a week. They are not the only ones opposed to the campground.

The St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin Tribal Council sent a letter to the Land Services Department formally opposing the campground proposal.

“The Tribe is most concerned with the possibility of added lakeshore erosion on Big Sand Lake, an issue that has been addressed multiple times over the past several years and continues to be of concern by the Tribe: the possibility of an increase in invasive species being introduced in the lake as a result of increased boaters and campers.”

The letter also outlines potential disruptions of fish spawning, increased boating hindering the Tribe’s Sand Lake Reservation Community to peacefully and privately enjoy their homes.

“The Tribe is concerned that this development is rushed and without consideration to the potential environment and economic impacts this will have on the lake and surrounding communities.”

Brad Kautzer is the president of BSVLACC, he told the committee this high-density campground is “inappropriate for the area.” Others called the proposal short sighted and said Highway 70 may need to be widened to incorporate the increased traffic.

Another nearby resident said 125 campsites is more than the number of houses on either Big Sand or Viola Lake.

Land Services was inundated with emails opposing the campground, some with lengthy concerns and dozens of people spoke in opposition to the proposal.

There was some support for the campground. A handful of identical emails were received by the Land Services Department supporting the project and a few people including Bocan spoke in favor of the campground.

Supervisor Craig Conroy, Jim Paden and Jim Pearson spoke about the conditional use permit.

Conroy said a lot of the public concerns are speculative, Paden said he wants more information on erosion and Pearson said the Tribe’s concerns about the lake are important to look into.