A complaint forced Archie Leizinger to close his landing until he gets a $1,500 permit, prompting a debate about fair access.
To launch a boat on Shutz Lake in the city of Victoria, you've got to see 84-year-old Archie.
For nearly half a century, he's been running what's locally known as Archie's Landing, the only place on the 99-acre lake in the southwest metro where outsiders -- and even many lakeshore owners -- can put their boats in the water.
Archie charges $6 a boat and a Dr Pepper. Archie Leizinger is mentally disabled, and the little money he makes from local anglers supplements his meager income.
But he had to shut down his launch this spring when someone complained to the city that he was operating a business without a permit, and that anglers using his boat access might bring zebra mussels into the lake. Now, he has to come up with $1,500 for a permit, incensing his supporters who are raising money to pay for it and who contend the issue is more about efforts to close off access to the tiny lake, which is known for its bass fishing.
For Chris Glaze, who has fished the lake for 18 years, it doesn't make sense that one neighbor's complaint can shut the landing down.
"The guy has caused nobody any grief for all that time, and he's brought a lot of joy to my life," Glaze said. "People are trying to mess with him because they thought he didn't have any backup."
Both sides will have a chance to tell their side Tuesday night, when Victoria's Planning Commission holds a public hearing about the proposed permit.
'Took it pretty hard'
Mainly, Archie enjoys talking with people about fishing and showing off his tackle boxes with dozens of lures.
"Look at all the sunfish," he yelled to a visitor recently, his lanky frame dancing with excitement on a rickety wooden dock as he pointed to the shallows.
But he was in tears after he had to close the launch in late April after the city got involved because of the complaint. Victoria officials determined that he needed a conditional-use permit and contacted his family to lay out the options.
"The choice was to either obtain a proper permit to continue operating the landing as a home occupation or to close it," said Holly Kreft, community development director.
Mary Leizinger, the wife of Archie's nephew, said the reason for the complaint goes deeper. "It's about trying to limit public access to the lake," she said. "A few people prefer the lake to be private for only the homeowners here." The family has operated the boat launch since 1933, she said, and it's the only one left on the lake.
Archie's mental disabilities prompted his parents to take him out of school after the second grade, she said, and raise him at home.
Once the family heard their options from the city, it closed the landing while debating what to do. The permit would cost $1,500, and only a handful of boats use the small launch each week. It lies at the bottom of a steep, paved hill, with parking for about six vehicles and trailers.
Leizinger and other family members realized that Archie stays fit by charging up and down the hill to greet fishermen, and that the social contact with them gives his life purpose and meaning. She said Archie "took it pretty hard" when they told him he couldn't open the landing in May. "He was pretty weepy and crying about it, and he was pretty upset," she said.
The family applied for the permit June 12 so it could reopen the launch, and has been working with city officials on its conditions.
City council member Kim Roden lives on the lake, and said she has become a "complaint box" about lake problems for the past several years. Roden said that Archie's Landing has allowed people onto the lake who have upset her and others.
"We have wakeboarders who are eroding our shoreline, we have rude fishermen who won't yield, and if we don't do mandatory inspections or something else, we're now going to have zebra mussels," she said.
Roden said fishermen park in front of people's docks for hours, catching enormous numbers of sunfish and then throwing them back into the lake. She said she called the Leizinger family to complain, and they told her to call the sheriff.
Glazer said the few people who use Archie's Landing can hardly be blamed for troubles on the lake. The lake is known to bass fishermen, he said, and some of them have donated money to Archie's family to help pay the one-time permit fee.
Glazer said that sometimes new lakeshore owners don't understand that lakes are public waters, and that anglers have rights to fish on them. He said that all of his encounters with homeowners on Shutz Lake over the years have been positive.
Ready to re-open
The Shutz Lake Association has discussed the issue, and two weeks ago its board of directors voted to support Archie's family in its pursuit of a permit, said the group's president, Lance Fisher. But the association decided not to specify any particular concerns or conditions that should be attached to the permit, he said. About 30 houses are on the lake, which is also bordered by Carver Prk Reserve.
Kreft said the city has worked with the family on permit conditions for the landing, which include access and hours of operation, parking, signage at the launch, dock repair or replacement, and composting, recycling and trash collection.
Concerns about zebra mussels are "not relevant" to the city's zoning ordinance for operating a business out of a home, Kreft said. The five-member Planning Commission must ultimately recommend to the City Council whether to accept, modify or deny the permit.
Mary Leizinger said that Archie cannot understand the process, but has been told that the family is having meetings and doing paperwork to try to reopen the launch.
Archie's ready for that, and said he wants to see his fishermen friends.
Last week he stood on shore, next to a small wooden paybox with a slot on top that a friend made to collect fees. A pontoon motored by, and Archie leapt onto the dock, flapping and waving his long arms, whooping with a child's delight.
Tom Meersman • 612-673-7388