Some Items to Consider
The Minnesota Legislature established the LMCD (Minn. Stat. §§ 103B.601-103B.645) more than 50 years ago to help protect the lake, public safety, and the environment. The LMCD’s mission is to preserve and enhance the Lake Minnetonka experience so it continues to be an attractive place to live, do business, and recreate. One of the ways the LMCD carries out its duties is through the development and adoption of regulations and initiatives that apply to uses of the lake.
The characteristic and conditions of the shoreline, water depth, environmental areas, legal encumbrances, and other factors may determine how a property may be used for things like docks, watercraft (types, size, number, etc.), etc. The regulations are somewhat similar to those applicable to on-land storage of vehicles, which can be influenced by the characteristics of streets, landscapes, and driveways. Those new to the lake, or are considering purchasing land on the lake, often have questions about the LMCD and how its regulations affect what can be done on the lake. The following provides information regarding some of the most frequently asked questions to serve as a starting point for those wishing to learn more about how the LMCD regulations affects the use of the lake by adjacent property owners.
Since the lake has so many unique characteristics, please contact the LMCD office for information specific to a particular site. Also, please keep in mind the LMCD cannot recommend whether you should purchase a property and cannot guarantee how its regulations may affect use of the lake in the future. The LMCD can provide information on its current regulations, but any use requiring a permit cannot be decided upon until an application has been processed in accordance with the LMCD Code of Ordinances (“Code”). To aid in the review of a property, a general view and measurement of a property is typically available through the aerials provided on the Hennepin County interactive property map or Carver County interactive property map.
Generally, for purposes of applying the Code, the riparian rights for the entire site are considered. In cases where those riparian rights are shared among multiple parties for a particular site, the overall site must cumulatively comply with Code requirements. An easement grants the holder a legal right to use another’s land for a specific limited purpose, such as lake access. The legal title to the land remains with the owner of the land. There are a variety of types of easements including, but not limited to, private property easements, conservation easements, public easements, or other types.
If the property you are considering has access to the lake through an easement, be sure to review the language of the easement carefully and consult with your attorney. Easements may provide shared riparian rights that affects the Code allowances such as setbacks and watercraft density. Please refer to our Residential Docks, Structures, and Watercraft handout for setbacks, length, watercraft density, and other requirements.
It is important to know the existing water depth in relation to the 929.4 Feet ordinary high water (OHW) level for Lake Minnetonka. The water depths vary significantly in bays and even within the same bay. They also vary depending on the time of year and amount of precipitation. For example, water levels in the fall could be 12 inches below OHW level. Also, if a dock is not used over time, the sediment may accumulate in the location. Therefore, it is important to know the depth or draft of the watercraft intended to be stored at the property as compared to the depth of the water in the area.
There are many situations that may affect the use of the lakeshore property. A few to mention include unusual or converging lot lines, lagoons, proximity of channels, or heavy traffic areas.
The LMCD may have issued one or more variances related to a particular property. A variance is a request to deviate from one or more of the requirements of the Code. Section 6-5.01 of the Code outlines the variance process and requirements. A variance is a limited tool available to address unique situations where the strict application of the Code creates practical difficulties based on conditions unique to the property. The property or neighboring properties may have variances that permanently alter the dock use areas or watercraft allowed.
The number of watercraft that can be stored at a property is based on the measurement of the shoreline at the 929.4 Feet OHW. This restriction applies to “restricted watercraft” and includes personal watercraft, runabouts, cruisers, pontoons, fishing boats, and similar types of watercraft. The following watercraft are considered “unrestricted watercraft” and are not included in watercraft density calculations, if they are not stored on or over the water:
Be sure to check with the city the property is located in to determine on-land storage requirements regarding watercraft, equipment, and structures.
The allowances for watercraft density are generally determined as follows, provided the use of the lake otherwise complies with the Code regarding things like the authorized dock use area, setbacks, and length restrictions:
LMCD regulations regarding dock structures, setbacks, watercraft density, and more are summarized on the Residential Docks, Structures, and Watercraft handout. View the complete code of ordinances for details.