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Preston City Council: Heartland denied building permit


Fri, Oct 24th, 2003
Posted in Features

At the October 6 Preston Council meeting it was decided to get an opinion from Mary Tietjen of Kennedy and Graven before approving or denying a building permit for Heartland Energy & Recycling. The attorney was to contact the MPCA to see what permits, if any, need to be obtained prior to issuing a building permit.

Fred Nagle, the city administrator, explained that at this time Tietjen was unable to contact the MPCA people and didn’t have an answer for council. Newly appointed council member Robert Sauer said that he wanted all this information before the council before he’d sign onto a permit for the tire burning facility.

Heartland developer Robert Maust explained to the council that he was going to get permitted in stages and at this time it was “just a few door sizes to change and a few cupalos to add” which required a permit. Council member Jerry Scheevel moved to have Nagle issue the permit immediately. Council member Heath Mensink joined Scheevel in supporting the motion. But the permit was denied with Mayor Dave Pechulis, Sauer, and council member Mike McGarvey voting against the measure.

Preston resident Chuck Aug, outraged by the denial, asked, “If it is an allowed use, how can you deny?”

Mayor Pechulis cut him off saying that “we have to move on.”

Mensink responded that (Heartland) is ‘being discriminated against by three council members.’

David Williams, an attorney, said that Heartland was not being discriminated against because there is ongoing litigation and it is prudent to wait until the litigation is complete. Preston resident Vern Runningen said that other ‘attorneys would disagree.’

As it was the current practice for Fred Nagle to issue building permits without first going through the council, City Attorney David Joerg questioned whether all permits would need to be approved by the council? The council has the authority which in practice was seeded to Nagle. It was decided to continue to grant authority to Nagle to issue building permits in all but agricultural, commercial, or industrial applications.

Heartland Intervention

Resolution

On November 18, 2002, the city council passed Resolution 02-12 which asked the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) to require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Heartland. Apparently this request never was received in a timely manner and there was no action taken.

Mayor Pechulis offered a new resolution which called for intervention regarding the appeal on Heartland for an EIS. Several citizens expressed their feelings that such a comprehensive study would alleviate the concerns they have over possible pollution dangers. In March 2003 the MPCA decided that an EIS was not warranted. In that same month an appeal was made by Southeastern Minnesota for Environmental Protection (SEMEP) commenced in Fillmore County District Court. A hearing is now set for December 2, 2003.

This resolution authorizes the City to ‘file a complaint seeking to intervene in the Appeal and requesting a Court order for an EIS on the Project.’ Heartland did a similar thing by intervening on the side of the MPCA in the appeal.

The resolution also authorized the City to hire the law firm of Dunnwald and Peterson as special legal counsel for this intervention. The mayor estimated the cost to be about $1500. Heath Mensink objected to spending more of the citizens money on this issue. Robert Sauer, however, felt that the MPCA should revisit this. Jerry Scheevel suggested that Pechulis put his own name on it and leave the city alone. Maust interjected that there is a ‘big difference in spending public funds and spending private funds.’

Vern Runningen exclaimed, “Nobody knows what is going to come out of that stack. Do you think people are so ignorant that they would spend $50 million to have it shut down.” Someone in the audience replied, “Yes!”

Mike McGarvey moved to approve the resolution. It passed with McGarvey, Sauer, and Pechulis in favor. Scheevel and Mensink voiced ardent dissent.

Recreational Facility

Financing Hits Another Snag

The City Council had been planning on a referendum seeking approval from Preston citizens to bond to finance $1,500,000 of the total cost to build and operate the proposed Rec Center.

Fred Nagle explained that under State Statute a city can only bond 2% of it’s assessed market value, which for Preston would be $1.1 million (total city valued at about 56 million). Therefore the city could only finance part of what the steering committee for the Rec Center had requested. Could more money be raised by private donations; could the total cost of the center be reduced; does the city want to go to their borrowing limit for GO Bonds; has the economy of Preston changed over the last few years? These are all questions that need to be discussed and answered. Mensink suggested a public town hall meeting for informational purposes only, involving the steering committee, the public, and the council. Sauer moved to have a non-binding meeting and it was approved.

Special Elections

David Joerg had drafted a resolution for a special election for the council seat of the late Mike Gartner, which is temporarily filled by the appointment of Dr. Sauer. He reminded the council once again that it was not required to have a special election. The election would be January 15, 2004, a Thursday. Jerry Scheevel moved to adopt 03-15 Resolution and Robert Sauer seconded it; the resolution was approved.

Moratorium

Council member Robert Sauer called for a six month moratorium on the issuance of building permits. He called for a review of The City of Preston Land Use Plan of 1999. He cited uneven application of ordinances and the possible legal action against the city because of unintended or uneven application. He feels many of the ordinances are of a generic variety and not a good fit for Preston.

“Spending money to defend lawsuits if you don’t have to is foolish,” Sauer suggested, Mike McGarvey agreed that the ordinances are ‘very vanilla,’ but was concerned about shutting down new building permits for six months.

Heath Mensink favored having a subcommittee with both the council and the planning and zoning board to study this with an attorney advising. Sauer agreed to talk to some contractors to see how a six month shut down would affect them.

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