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Preston City Council Report

Fri, Feb 7th, 2003
Posted in Features

The Preston City Council met February 3, even though Monday presented the Preston area with the most inclement weather of the season. In what has been an unusually calm winter, the intense wind, blowing snow and falling temperatures brought everyone back to a “winter” reality. Mayor David Pechulis called for a moment of silence out of respect for the Columbia astronauts who lost their lives Saturday. A decision is still imminent on what to do about the conditional use permit (CUP) that was approved in May 2002 for Heartland Energy and Recycling, LLC. According to state statute, the city should have waited until all regulatory permits have been issued before awarding a conditional use permit. The question now is whether the city should rescind the permit it awarded Heartland in May. The council has sought legal counsel to help them understand their options.Fred Nagle, the Preston City Administrator, explained that the law firm of Kennedy and Graven out of Minneapolis has been enlisted to research the problem of the CUP and to provide a legal opinion on how to best rectify the situation. Mary Tietjen, a lawyer with the firm, is in the process of examining the impact of certain environmental regulations as they pertain to the CUP. She will also clarify any legalities involved with the possibility of rescinding the CUP. Tietjen is further exploring Preston's ordinances as they pertain to the issue. Nagle wants Tietjen to make specific recommendations. Council member Mike Gartner says that we're going to have to use this format in the future. Gartner said, "We've got to follow it by the letter. . .we're in quicksand now. . .we want to come out of it." Citizens, representing SouthEastern Minnesotans for Environmental Protection (SEMEP) voiced concern over the delays that have occurred resolving this problem. At the request of SEMEP, Karen Marty, an attorney out of Bloomington, sent a letter to the council. Marty states in her letter that state statute requires that governing bodies act only subsequent to an environmental assessment worksheet (EAW) completion, when an EAW is required. Marty wrote to the council, "If a city approves a project, or issues permits for a project while the EAW is pending, it becomes much more difficult for the city to halt the project if that is the proper response to the environmental concerns." Marty goes on to say, "The City of Preston mistakenly issued a conditional use permit to Heartland Energy on May 20, 2002." She closes the letter by urging the City to rescind the CUP granted to Heartland. Members of SEMEP are frustrated by the council's inaction. It was pointed out that the council at it's last regular meeting had decided to have an attorney present at tonight's meeting, to guide them on legal problems associated with the Heartland issue. They demanded to know how much longer it would be before the council made a decision. The mayor assured them that the opinion from Kennedy and Graven should be offered to the council prior to the council's next regular meeting in two weeks.

Bike Trail City Attorney David Joerg, as a representative of the Joint Powers Board, requested approval of a preliminary plan to widen the West-West Bridge for a trail crossing. The Joint Powers Board includes several small towns in the area and it makes a collective effort to build trails. Joerg explained the plan to build a trail connecting Preston to the Forestville State Park.In this effort two bridges, the West Bridge at the end of Fillmore Street and the West-West Bridge up river, are being redesigned. The City owns the West-West Bridge and Joerg is requesting the council's consent to a plan that would widen the bridge on the north side to accommodate traffic. The road would also be straightened to improve the approach and to make it safer. The trail would run on the south side of the already existing bridge. Joerg emphasized that 'this project is costing the city of Preston absolutely nothing'. Funds are coming from the State. The preliminary plan was approved. Other business•The agenda for upcoming council meetings is posted on the Community TV channel (15, 22, or 72). • The closing of St Anthony Street between Main and Fillmore Street for the Trout Days Car Show in May was approved.• The next council meeting will be on Tuesday, February 18, because of President's Day.

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