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Heartland sues city of Preston


Fri, Nov 7th, 2003
Posted in Features

On Wednesday, two days after the Preston City Council denied a building permit to Bob and Elaine Maust, owners of Heartland Energy & Recycling, LLC, to modify their warehouse located in the Preston Industrial Park, lawyers for Heartland filed a writ of mandamus in Fillmore County District Court against the city of Preston.

In the suit, Heartland is asking the court to order the city to issue the permit or show cause before the court why they have not issued the permit. They are also seeking to recover any court costs as well as other relief the court may chose to award.

Heartland plans to construct a 21 megawatt power plant, generating electricity through the combustion of tire-derived fuel. The plant is estimated to cost somewhere around $50 million.

In their petition to the court, Heartland states that they applied for a building permit on September 26, 2003 to remodel a section of their existing facility to allow the energy company to install two diesel generators. They also state that the building permit is in compliance with the conditional use permit issued by the city council on April 21, 2003 and abides by the citys zoning ordinances.

Mondays action by the city council denying the building permit to the Mausts was the third time the council has taken such action. On three occasions, by a three to two vote, the council has denied issuing the building permit. The primary reasons given by the majority view of the council is that the city should wait until Heartland produces all required permits they need to operate the facility and until any litigation involving the Heartland plant is completed.

SEMEP has appealed the MPCAs decision not to require the plant to complete an Environmental Impact Statement. Heartland has intervened on the side of the MPCA in the case, while Preston has applied to be an intervener on the side of SEMEP, although the court has yet to officially act on that request. This case will be heard on December 2.

In court papers filed by Dorsey & Whitney, Heartlands lawyers write that the actions of the city jeopardizes the very existence of the plant because financing to build the plant cannot be secured until the building permit is issued. They also state that Heartland stands to lose a valuable state tax exemption if construction does not begin prior to January 1, 2004. They also claim that the action of the city has jeopardized Heartlands ability to enter into a peaking power agreement with Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Authority, where the Heartland plant must begin providing power by May 1, 2004.

No date has been set by the District Court to hear the Heartland suit.

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