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Preston City Council rescinds Heartland permit

Fri, Feb 21st, 2003
Posted in Features

A legal firm hired by the Preston City Council to offer legal advice has recommended that the council should rescind a conditional use permit (CUP) granted to Heartland Energy & Recycling in May.

Mary Tietjen, an attorney for Kennedy & Graven, advised the council to rescind the conditional use permit. Tietjen found two areas where the CUP was at odds with the statute.

"A final governmental decision may not be made to grant a permit. . ." before an environmental assessment worksheet (EAW) is issued and before an environmental impact statement (EIS) has been judged either unnecessary, concluded to be inadequate, or a variance provided.”

Tietjen also cited a City of Preston ordinance that requires the City Planning Commission to find the following before a CUP is issued. "Some of the required Findings are the conditional use will not be injurious to the use and enjoyment of other property in the immediate vicinity for the purpose already permitted; not substantially diminish and impair property values; not impede the normal and orderly development and improvement of surrounding vacant property; adequate facilities are being provided; and adequate measures will be taken to prevent or control offensive odor, fumes, etc."

The Southeastern Minnesotans for Environmental Protection (SEMEP) challenged the council’s legitimacy to issue the permit. Karen Marty, an attorney representing SEMEP, gave the opinion before the February 3 council meeting that the CUP was invalid and should be rescinded. Tietjen’s opinion prompted Council member Mike Gartner to state, "I interpret this as a no brainer. We're in violation according to both attorneys.”

The council adopted a resolution that rescinded the permit until the EAW is completed. A new application will not be required from Heartland. After the EAW is completed the Planning and Zoning Committee will need to revisit the issue to make sure it is in compliance with the Preston ordinance before the council makes a decision on the CUP.

Bob Maust of Heartland thought that the air quality permit could be issued next week, followed by a thirty day review including another public meeting.

Mayor visits tire

recycling plants

Mayor Dave Pechulis reported on his travels to South Chicago's Ford Heights and to Sterling, Connecticut, in order to observe a tire recycling plant in operation and to question local officials. Maust suggested these two locations and stressed that they were “old technology”. According to Pechulis, the plant in Ford Heights was in a poor residential neighborhood of about 3500 people and three blocks from a middle school. The plant was inoperable while Pechulis was there because of a power surge. It was built in 1991. There were 30 employees, most of whom lived outside the community. Therefore, the community's hope of bringing new employment to a depressed area was not realized. The plant was not operating nearly as efficiently as the Sterling plant which brought up questions of whose going to buy the plant if it fails and what else could the facilities be used for?

The Sterling plant is run by Exeter Energy and was built in the early "80's. It was in operation and there was no smell, but had large plumes of steam, a high pitch noise when the steam was released, and a high volume of truck traffic. This plant was in a more rural area and had light industrial businesses on the same road. This plant had 39 employees, burns nine million tires per year and seemed to be operated well.

Both plants are continually monitored by the Environmental Pollution Control Agency. Both plants had quite a lot of opposition to their construction.

Maust added that Minnesota's regulations are tougher than those in either Illinois or Connecticut. The plant he was proposing is a 'close-loop system' unlike either of the two plants visited. His would use less water and burn at a higher temperature; an entirely different kind of combustion. He is asking for no subsidies or financial support. Today's modern plants are much cleaner and were it to fall out of compliance there would be a $25,000 per day fine imposed, causing it to be shut down until the problem is corrected.

Other business

•Sheila Craig, Vice President of the Preston Historical Society, gave an update on the historic elevator project. The society would appreciate a chance to scan any past pictures people might have to help plan for its restoration and are trying to find out the date of its construction. She described fund raising efforts including t-shirts still available for $10 and Red Wing crocks with a picture of the elevator. The crocks would be the first in a series of collectibles with historic buildings pictured on them. The society is trying to get the elevator listed on the National Register.

•Dennis Clausen expressed his opposition to the West-West Bridge being widened for the trail crossing, as presented by David Joerg of the Joint Powers Board on February 3. Joerg said that it was the same “lingo” heard before and suggested that Clausen come to his office and that he would show him exactly where the lines are. Joerg said, "Your property will not be involved."

Clausen said that his house is in a flood plain and is worried that any fill would put his family at risk for flooding.

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