Northern Life Ranch (April 2016 Meeting Minutes)

Lee reported that in March 2016, we’ve been contacted by Dr. Jonathan Trexel, Executive Director of Northern Life Ranch, about his proposal to purchase John Wilson’s 275-acre land on the east side of Pequaywan Lake Road. He hopes to develop a non-profit respite home “for disabled veterans, first-responders, pastors, missionaries, widows and foster families.” This is one of several similar developments Dr. Trexel is hoping to open across the country.

Northern Life Ranch is organized as a charitable, non-profit tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization. As such, it would be exempt from local property taxes. “Guests will be invited to stay up to two weeks per year, totally free of charge.” Dr. Trexel estimates the ranch will employ up to 20 full-time staff, along with some part-timers, and can house about 100 visitors at a time.

He plans to build a main lodge, a two-story building “slightly under 40,000 square feet” in area. The lodge will house (according to promotion materials), “a health and wellness center, multiple fellowship areas, camaraderie lounges, a theater, craft room, music room, atrium, comfortable accommodations” and dining facilities in (according to promotion materials) a “vaulted great room, featuring two magnificent fireplaces.” The dining room can accommodate up to 150 people.

Outbuildings planned include four cabins near the lodge, a shed for ranch vehicles, and a couple of open-air gazebos.

The entry and exit would be via a driveway across from Kathy and Jerry King’s place at 8885 Pequaywan Lake Road.

The property would be served by a large septic system; he estimates his daily use of water will be about 6,000 gallons.

He also plans to have a small herd of bison grazing on the land as an attraction. When Lee asked what constituted a “small herd,” he said it would be less than 50 and probably closer to 20-25 adult bison. They will not be doing any processing of the livestock, but will sell off most calves as they develop.

Dr. Trexel’s next step is to present a detailed plan to the St. Louis County Planning Department at their monthly hearing. According to Mark Johnson of the Planning Department, Dr. Trexel will need a Conditional Use Permit to do this, since the county considers Northern Life Ranch semi-public, semi-private use and the land is zoned for single-family residential. He has apparently not yet filed his application, so the earliest he could present it to the Planning Commission is at the June meeting.

The procedure for making comments to the Planning Department as they consider the Conditional Use Permit is as follows:

1) The town will receive a copy of the application. Comments from the Township are always appreciated by the Planning Commission. Comments could include the minutes from any meeting we had with the applicant.

2) The Planning Commission will notify at least 10 property owners within one quarter-mile of the project about the hearing. Since they must notify at least 10 owners, it is likely in this area that they will be going further than one-quarter mile. The letter will include information on how to comment.

3) Residents can go to the public hearing and testify in person. The hearing will likely be in Virginia during the day.

4) Email or regular letters are welcome and they do not need to be just from the people who received notice. All area residents and property owners may comment. In fact, even people outside the area may comment.

5) While he cannot relay phone call messages to the Planning Commission, Mark Johnson is available to take phone calls to answer questions (, 218-725-5003).

You can read more about the property development at