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brief overview of city ordinances

Following is a brief overview of city ordinances, not meant to be a substitute for a full reading of applicable ordinances available at the City Clerk’s office during office hours, weekdays 9A.M. To 1 P.M

These rules were put into effect to make life here in this year-round vacation mecca a little more civilized.


A close reading of the zoning ordinance, No. 2006-1, reveals that the city is concerned with defining residential and commercial uses as well as protecting health and welfare and the property values in Wahkon.

The ordinance defines homes, businesses, home occupations and industries, as well as types of land and lots. Included are installation requirements, definitions of manufactured housing, non-conforming uses, permits, excavations or alterations, zoning fees and violations. Special permits are required for conditional use, variances and subdivisions. Hearing requirements are also detailed.

Thinking of building or adding on to your place? Check out the ordinances at City Hall that are easy to read and designed to speed your project along while you adhere to the rules and regulations that have been codified over the years such as those setting out minimum house dimensions and setbacks.

A zoning packet has been prepared which offers the builder step-by-step instructions, forms to file and fees to pay. An inspector will stop by the site and issue a permit if all regulations have been met. Property owners unable to meet all applicable zoning requirements may begin the variance process, wherein a public hearing is scheduled before the city council. In some instances, a survey will be required prior to the hearing.

There’s a permit for just about every imaginable project, excavation or building, so check with city hall before initiating construction plans. The city adopted the Minnesota Basic Code, amended and supplemented, with a schedule of fees and charges for various services, licenses and permits.


Sewer System

Wahkon’s municipal sewer system maintains its own set of fees for hookups and charges. Billing is quarterly. See city hall for full details.


Shoreline Management

As protection of the lake is an issue statewide, the city recognized and adopted Department of Natural Resources guidelines (see Shoreline Management Ordinance) for construction, excavations or landscaping within 1000 feet of the shores of Mille Lacs and in watershed areas.


Law and Order

Among the city council’s concerns over the years have been issues of trespassing in public building or grounds, discharging firearms within city limits (Minnesota Basic Code 130-2), curfew violations and vehicle operation including snowmobiles and ATVs (Minnesota Basic Code 92.18).

Fire protection services are contracted with the City of Isle (911 for emergency). Mille Lacs County Sheriff’s Office patrols the entire county including the City of Wahkon (911 for emergency). The Sheriff’s Office cooperates with other area law enforcement agencies including Isle Police Dept. and MN DNR.

Unsupervised kids under the age of 16 are subject to a curfew, 10 P.M., until 5 A.M., under most circumstances. Parents are responsible for their youngsters regarding this curfew according to Ordinance 1995-2.

Liquor Laws

State laws govern the sale and consumption of beer, wine and liquor, (see Minnesota Liquor Control Board permits and MN statutes). The city also issues one-day 3.2 licenses for social activities and/or events sponsored by an organization.


To ensure traffic flow, snow removal and emergency vehicle operation, the city bans: parking in alleys, overnight parking on streets from Nov. 1 to April 1, or parking within 20 feet of intersections. The city adopted state codes for other traffic laws.

Services and Utility Franchises

Since utilities are essential to modern life within the city, the council over time has ordained that franchises and easements are granted to electricity, natural gas and cable television suppliers.

Current franchises are issued to East Central Energy, Minnegasco and SCI Cable.

Throughout the state, excavators are obliged to phone Gopher State One Call, 800-252-1166, at least 48 hours before you dig.

As previously noted, the city provides sewer service while water is the responsibility of the homeowner.


From time to time, folks arrive with the idea of setting up shop, temporarily or long-term, with various enterprises or things for sale. The city has a number of ordinances covering these enterprises. Also adopted are laws covering gambling, charitable or otherwise. Best to check before gaming.

The city has a host of rules for merchants to read carefully on the subjects of peddling, hawking, setting up recycling, pawnbroking and transient merchandising.

Keeping it Tidy

According to public input at a number of city forums, the prevailing mood is to properly store and dispose of garbage and junk, as well as to keep our property maintained. The overall appearance of our town indicates pride in our community, neighbors and ourselves.

The city council has followed up with this sentiment with ordinances regulating blight, weeds, junk vehicles and assorted trash. Burning barrels have also been prohibited, as they are unhealthy for people and wildlife. The city has also asked folks to keep city sidewalks cleared of snow, ice leaves and dirt, and unencumbered with obstructions.

Burning Issues

Aside from the aforementioned ban on trash burners in Wahkon, the city follows Minnesota’s extensive open-burning rules.

As a courtesy to residents, the city clerk is also the Fire Warden who issues free permits for fires that exceed limits of campfire pits, which, by state law, may not exceed three feet in diameter, have cleared area of five feet from the burn, and which are limited to burning vegetative material only. The state issues advisories regarding fire dangers and approved burning.

On-line state burning permits for a fee, are offered by the DNR. See the website for details. Fire wardens and the DNR website offer copies of the MN open burning laws.

So, if you are thinking of lighting up a pile of brush or some grass and weeds locally, consult city hall. There the clerk will go over the dimensions of the burn and, if burning restrictions are not in effect, issue a burning permit. Permits are effective during prescribed times only. See city hall or local and state on-line services before commencing any open burn.

Pets and Critters

Dogs, wild critters, farm animals and fowl came under the scrutiny of the city, which enacted restrictions regulating animals within city limits. Folks who keep a number of pets are urged to check ordinances 1993-1 and 1995-1.

Farm animals, including chickens, need at least five acres to roam, as well as clean premises, according to the council. Free range farm animals may not stray from the owners’ acreage. The ordinances also detail dangerous and nuisance dogs, dog and cat kennels, wild animals and penalties for violations.


On Ice

After winter sets in folks may want to take a look at the guidelines for cutting big chunks of ice within city limits, adopted by the council on December 2, 1912. Basically, the city fathers asked cutters to put up fences around their excavations until the ice thickened to six inches. This law is still on the books just in case ice boxes come back into vogue.

Since fish houses are another choice of many sportsmen for winter ice-angling, the city adopted rules and regs for storage of these shanties, whether on wheels or skids.


Good Government

Council passed various ordinances over the years to take care of bonds for city officials, definitions for clerk-treasurer, council salaries, meeting dates, workers’ compensation, personal time off for employees, election dates, holidays and various other housekeeping issues to keep the wheels of government turning smoothly.

The public is welcome to review the applicable rules and definitions. Copies may be obtained at city hall for a fee. The clerk also offers notary services. Want a copy of the agenda or meeting minutes? Go to website and pull up a copy for free, e-mail for a copy or drop by city hall to obtain a copy for a small fee.

Remember, there is no substitute for a careful reading of the ordinances, which apply to your current interests.

FAQ: Frequently Asked Question

Question:  A Wahkon resident asks: “I want to build or move in an outbuilding on my lot in Wahkon. Also thinking of adding a deck or putting up one of those vinyl sheds in the yard. What do I need to know before I get started?”

Answer:   Summertime brings out the best in shed, garage or deck builders. Others are content to purchase one from the numerous suppliers in the area to move onto a lot. Also popular are the vinyl material car and machinery tents. All of these are subject to Wahkon’s setback rules or zoning regulations. Check for permitting at City Hall.

According to Wahkon’s zoning ordinance, “No structure, permanent or temporary, whether building permits are required or not, shall be erected, moved or altered less than 5 feet from the surveyed alley line; less than 7.5 feet from the interior lot lines; less than 10 feet from the surveyed city and/or county street/lot lines; less than 10 feet from a state highway right of way; less than 50 feet from the surveyed high water mark in a sewered area; and less than 75 feet from the surveyed high water mark in an unsewered area. Structure is defined as “any addition, boat house, building, guest cottage, commercial building, cottage, deck, fence, fish house, garage, gazebo, greenhouse, industrial building, manufactured home, pole barn, porch, pump house, residential building, signs and storage shed.”

Click link to read the 2023 Independent 2023 Auditor's Report:

INDEPENDENT AUDITOR'S REPORT of the City of Wahkon 2023

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