Plans to build a casino resort on the shores of Star Lake in Otter Tail County, between Pelican Rapids and Dent, Minnesota have been put on hold by the White Earth Nation.

According to the Duluth News Tribune

Elections for the position of secretary-treasurer held on the White Earth Reservation in June saw incumbent, Tara Mason, defeated by Alan Roy in a 1,134 to 1,082 vote. And in his representative race, Raymond Auginaush Sr., beat out Steven Clark by a mere four votes.

“We’ve got some new people”

Ron Valiant, acting Chief Executive Officer for the federally recognized tribe said…

“They put on hold a lot of our projects going on right now so they can figure out where the money is coming from, how the budgets are and everything like that. There was a lot of monies going out, so they are just trying to find out if we have the monies to move forward on some of these projects.”

Election concerns:

The newspaper further reported that the close victory by Auginaush over Clark has been the catalyst for a recount and an appeal, which has seen his status remain in limbo.

In July, Wayne Johnson, District 2 Commissioner for Otter Tail County, said, “What I know was that there was an election up at the White Earth Nation June 12. The two people who got elected to the council were vocally opposed to the Star Lake Casino.”

Plans for casino resort announced:

Late in September 2015, the White Earth Nation announced plans to build the Shooting Star Casino and Resort on 14.7 acres of trust land east of Maplewood State Park, just east of Pelican Rapids. The casino was at the time projected to open in 2017. The Nation had purchased some 270 additional acres of land next to trust land to provide room for transportation access, parking, and other infrastructure included in the development.

In addition to a gambling facility, the project would reportedly include a 180-room hotel, full-service bar and grill, restaurant, a 10,000-square-foot conference center, 6,000-square-foot indoor-outdoor pool and spa area, gift shop, entertainment lounge, RV park, as many as 850 slot machines and other amenities.

Opposition gets organized:

One of Otter Tail’s largest lakes, Star Lake is heavily populated by both year-round and summer residents.

The project has been met with intense opposition and served as the catalyst for the formation of Star Lake Concerned Citizens (SLCCG), an organization comprised of a group of property owners who worry about the potential harm increased traffic will have on wetlands, and the character of the rural area comprised mostly of family-owned resorts and seasonal lake cabins.

According to the SLCCG website

“SLCCG and our supporters are working diligently to ensure Star Lake and its related watershed are protected now and for future generations. We believe that this parcel of land, which is mostly valuable wetlands on Star Lake, originally purchased for a wild rice camp, is absolutely inappropriate for the proposed commercial development. Our goal is to see this proposed development on the sensitive South Arm wetlands be denied.”

The organization, which is endorsed by the Star Lake Property Owners’ Association (SLPOA) Board and many of its members, also believe that other area lakes and the residents in Dora, Star and Dead Lake Townships would be adversely affected by the construction of what would be the third casino to operate under the umbrella of the Shooting Star Casino, Hotel and Entertainment Company.

The White Earth nation’s other two gambling venues include the Shooting Star Casino, Hotel and Entertainment in Mahnomen and Shooting Star Casino in Bagley, Minnesota, which opened in August 2016.

In mid-August last year, officials in Otter Tail County voted to take a closer look at the casino proposal via a full environmental impact statement to measure the project’s significance on Star Lake, nearby wetlands and the surrounding land.