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BBQ festival planned at Cottage Grove golf course

A new summer event is expected to make its way to Cottage Grove later this year as Mississippi Dunes has been preliminarily approved to host the 2014 Minnesota BBQ Festival in August.

Grilling masters from around the country will turn the Dunes’ driving range into an all-out competition for the title of best barbecue. Live entertainment, a car show, fireworks, hot air balloon rides and more is also expected to occur during the three-day festival.

Larry Best, representing William ‘Doc’ Doebler, owner of Mississippi Dunes, applied for the special event permit in late May and said the festival has the potential to bring more than 6,000 people to Cottage Grove.

Despite having unmet several parameters of permit approval, the city allowed planning to move forward and set a June 20 deadline to complete the application.

City Planner John Burbank said the operation had to have a number of measures in place, including a stormwater plan, full details regarding shuttles for event-goers, parking plan, grading plan and severe weather plan. Many were incomplete, Burbank said.

Best has met with Public Safety Director Craig Woolery and Burnbank said the department is assisting with the creation of a severe weather and safety plan, adding that Best could submit a full plan 30 days prior to the event.

“The fire marshal is also looking for complete plan as far as fireworks goes,” Burbank said. “Failure to complete that will jeopardize the permit.”

While Mayor Myron Bailey acknowledged the fact that the event could give a boost to local businesses, the lack of a complete permit application did not go unnoticed.

“To me prior performance is always a very good indicator of future performance,” City Council member Justin Olsen said. “(The city) has provided a pretty clear outline of what needs to occur and specific timelines and compliance hasn’t been reached.”

Olsen said he was concerned about approving the permit, which allows the operation to move forward with other details, when the first “bucket full of things” has yet to be accomplished.

Best, an employee of Mississippi Dunes for several months, said planning of the event was recently turned over to him and he has since been working to secure proper permits.

Last year, Mississippi Dunes began grading a dirt road along 103rd Street, an action done without permitting, City Engineer Jennifer Levitt said. Two stop work orders were issued but the business continued to create the road.

Because of the operation’s failure to secure proper permitting, Levitt said permit fees would be doubled.

Burbank said he met with Best in May and reiterated the importance of obtaining a stormwater plan prior to the continuance of grading the road parallel to 103rd Street. Best said he reviewed a plan with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and was given the green light, but Levitt said the timeframe did not allow for the completion of a full plan.

“We did allow them to do a site walk and identify the elements that would have been included in a formal plan,” Levitt said.

A topography study also needs to be completed, Burbank said, which details the design of the roadways and turn sites into the event.

“This needs to be done by a professional engineer registered by the state of Minnesota,” Levitt said.

A June 20 deadline is attached to the study and a formal grading plan must be present in order to be permitted.

Because the event will have several food vendors, a health inspection of the property is also required. Burbank also added that Mississippi Dunes is working with the city on waste collection.

Parking was another issue not fully vetted. The plan proposes allowing parking on the fairway and rough areas of holes 1, 2, 8 and 18. Handicap parking will be available on the existing concrete main lot. Parking on 103rd Street would be restricted and Mississippi Dunes will be responsible for marking the street as such. 

There will be shuttle service to and from the site, but there is no full plan yet, Burbank said. He added that “special concern” has yet to be paid to the adjacent railroad tracks which separates the event from parking. Participants will not be allowed to cross the tracks and the operation has yet to create a solid plan to keep people off the tracks.

“Traffic congestion on 103rd Street is another issue,” Burbank said. “Public safety is expecting traffic mitigation along the street as different vehicle will be coming and going. There will need to be security and police officers on site.

“There are going to be a lot of different things going that affect the health and safety of the neighborhood,” he added. “But it sounds like it could be something interesting for the residents of the community.”

Bailey reiterated that if permit deadlines are not met moving forward, “staff will have the full power to stop the event” from occurring.

“It appears like there’s quite a bit of planning and very diligent follow-up that’s going to need to take place before we even get close to the execution phase,” Olsen said. “I just want to ensure that we are doing what we can to provide proper guidance and proper follow-up. But we also need to be diligent about continuing to measure where you’re at (in the permitting process).”

The 2014 Minnesota BBQ Festival at Mississippi Dunes is tentatively scheduled for August 8-10.