At the Champlin City Council meeting on March 22, droves of residents packed the council chambers to voice their opinion about a potential agreement between the city and Your Boat Club (YBC).
YBC is an organization that rents watercraft to members of their club throughout the midwest region. The agreement between YBC and the city of Champlin, created on March 16, allows for YBC to utilize the city’s 18-watercraft docking system on the Mississippi River in 2021, which was purchased as part of the plan for the Mississippi Crossings construction and is set for installation in May. The city council’s task was to decide whether or not to approve the agreement between the two parties, or table the discussion for a later date.
Charlie Lehn, Champlin parks and facilities manager, hopes that this agreement will, along with the upcoming Mississippi Crossings construction, bring traffic to Champlin and especially on the Mississippi River.
“The goal of the Mississippi Crossings construction is to reorient people back to the river,” Lehn said.
Your Boat Club CEO and Co-Founder Luke Kujawa told the city council and residents that his objective is not to alienate the residents but to be a part of the growth of the city. “We want to be respectful to what the feel of the overall area is,” he said. “We’re excited to be a part of this development.”
However, many residents who live on the river are not pleased with the prospect of having Your Boat Club operate their business near their homes.
Scott Nielson is a resident of Champlin who lives on Mississippi Drive. He said allowing Your Boat Club to operate on the river will increase the traffic, especially with the upcoming Crossing construction project, and as a result, frustrate the existing homeowners.
“If you are doing this in part to generate traffic to the restaurant, it probably isn’t a good idea to irritate the hell out of all the people who live on the river who could go to Anoka instead,” Nielsen said. “I think you are dramatically changing the character and the aesthetics and what we love about the river.”
Jerry Posey has lived on Mississippi Drive since 1992, and his son lives seven houses up the road. Last year, Posey said his son spent $65,000 just to take care of his shoreline due to erosion caused by boat wakes.
Although, Kujawa told the residents and City Council that there will be only pontoons to start, and then possibly adding runabouts, Posey is concerned that the increased boat traffic could lead to more money being spent on shoreline issues. He also is upset with the lack of clarity that the city gave regarding discussions with Your Boat Club.
“We should have been notified and been able to provide input,” Posey said. “For this to come in this fashion shows a lack of respect for us who pay taxes on that river.”
However, not everyone feels that having rental boats on the Mississippi River could be a detriment to the city. Council member Jessica Tesdall spoke up in defense of residents who do not live on the river and feel that this would provide a way for them to enjoy the amenities of the Mighty Mississippi.
“This is about opening up the river to others,” Tesdall said. “This is an opportunity for that access.”
In the context of the meeting, this issue was placed on the consent agenda, which is classified as “routine or non-controversial in nature, that need little or no additional deliberation based on the level of review.” Council member Ryan Sabas, who lives on the Mississippi River, thought that this topic should not have been placed on the consent agenda, and was disappointed that river residents were, he thought, not informed of this development before the meeting.
Near the meeting’s conclusion, Sabas opined not as a city council member, but as a Mississippi River homeowner. “I am embarrassed for the river residents,” he said. “They had no input on this. Their voices have not been heard.”
By the end of the night, the city council voted unanimously to table the discussion, meaning it can be brought back at any time.
City administrator Bret Heitkamp said it would take 60 days to solicit resident input.