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Preston City Council will ask the MPCA for an EIS on Heartland


Fri, Nov 8th, 2002
Posted in Features

The Preston City Council voted three to one Monday night to ask the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed Heartland Energy & Recycling plant. Using fluid bed technology, the energy plant proposes to burn shredded tires to generate electricity at the old Evergreen plant in Preston’s industrial park.

While stating that he was 100% behind the plant, Council member Steve Knoepke told his colleagues that he felt compelled to follow the wishes of the citizens who oppose Heartland.

“Two weeks ago, I said I wouldn’t vote until I had heard from the citizens,” Knoepke told the Council, referring to the October 21 council meeting where over 100 people turned out to discuss the proposed plant. “But it is obvious to me now that they want an EIS.”

Mayor Clarence Quanrud agreed saying, “The group has spoken.”

Since the October 21 meeting, the city has conducted a poll of residents asking whether they feel there is a need for an Environmental Impact Statement or not. The poll results showed that 165 residents said Yes compared to 25 who said No.

“All we can do is what they ask us to do,” Knoepke said. Knoepke made the motion to ask for an EIS, with council member Mike Gartner seconding the action. Council member Kurt Reicks joined Knoepke and Gartner in calling for an EIS. Council member Jerry Scheevel opposed asking for an EIS saying that the cost and time involved would kill the project.

The resolution will read something to the effect that while the council supports the energy plant the city needs an Environmental Impact Statement to gather more information on the effects the plant would have on the community.

An EIS will not focus solely on the effects the plant would have on air, water, and pollution but the also the impact the plant would have on the area, including housing, property values, business activity and the like.

The council vote does not guarantee that the MPCA will call for an EIS, but it is expected to carry some clout in the decision making process. The comment period regarding the Environmental Assessment Worksheet ended October 23. The MPCA staff will make a recommendation to the MPCA citizens board on whether an EIS is warranted. The citizens board will then make a decision. While agreeing to call for an EIS, many council members were hopeful that the citizens would accept the results of an EIS if it is conducted.

At the October 21 meeting, Mayor Clarence Quanrud asked the assembled “if the EIS comes back clean will you be in favor of it?” The response from the crowd was Yes.

Subdivision Sewer Line

In other business, developer Rusty Schroeder came before the council to discuss a proposed subdivision he plans on building in south Preston. Because of the layout of the land, Schroeder would need to install a lift station to handle sewer to the four houses he plans on building. The alternative would be for Schroeder to get an easement from an adjoining property owner or get a variance from the city to put in individual septic systems.

The city zoning ordinance requires that subdivisions be hooked up to city sewer.

The consensus of the council was that Schroeder needs to document whether the neighbor would be opposed to an easement and what the costs for putting in a pump station might be. According to city administrator Fred Nagel, it costs the city from $40 to $50,000 to put in a pump station, but that usually accommodates more than four houses.

Tax Abatement

Steve Corson was before the council to discuss some concerns he has regarding a draft tax abatement development agreement between the city and Old School Apartments. Old School Apartments plans on adding 12 additional units at the old elementary school site.

According to City Attorney Dave Joerg one problem has to do with parking. The city ordinance states that there needs to be two parking spaces for every unit developed, which would require that 24 spaces be provided in an asphalt surfaced parking lot.

“If there are changes to this, then there would have to be a variance,” Joerg told the council.

The agreement, if accepted by both parties, would grant tax abatement to Old School Apartments for up to a maximum of $2,600 for each of ten years. Joerg stated that this is a maximum and that the actual amount could be lower based on the amount of investment.

Corson and Joerg will meet to look at issues with the draft agreement before presenting the matter to the council at a later date.

Highway 52

The council approved new changes to the Highway 16/52 project calling for the conversion of an unimproved alley between Houston Street and County Road 17 into a thru-way street.

The new street would provide access to the Preston Motor Mart, which will lose its highway access with changes to the right-of-way. According to Nagel, MnDOT would pick up the costs of developing the street.

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