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Land issues dominate agenda

Fri, Mar 9th, 2001
Posted in

Monday, March 12, 2001

By Mike McGrath

If you own property along a trout stream in Southeast Minnesota, you probably have been approached by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) about selling a fishing easement. If you havent been asked yet, then it might not be very long until you are.

According to Steve Klotz with DNR Fisheries, the states natural resource agency is actively trying to acquire easements along the countys trout streams to give anglers access to the waterways. Klotz was before the County Board last week to explain the program.

"The program is simple and straight forward," explained Klotz. "We dont purchase land fee title, it is just an easement."

According to Klotz, the 132-foot wide easements he negotiates with landowners are a "right that is afforded for a limited use." That use is twofold: for citizens to fish the waterway and for the right of the DNR staff to access the stream for fish management purposes. The easement does not include rights for hunting or trapping.

In the last six months the DNR has spent over $500,000 to acquire easements in Southeast Minnesota. Klotz noted that the South Branch of the Root River is a high priority for his program, but that the width of the river requires the easements to be 264 feet wide, 132 feet each side of the centerline of the river.

To acquire the easement, the DNR will pay 90% of the appraised value of the land to be in easement. The landowner retains rights and title to the property, but an examination of the Trout Stream Easement agreement handed out at the Board meeting shows that there are some conditions. Certain activities such as building a structure, cutting trees, excavating or dumping would require permission of the DNR. Tillage in the easement is also restricted.

Klotzs presentation brought a few questions from Commissioner Gary Peterson.

"Is there a time or term limit on these easements?" inquired Peterson.

"The easement is perpetual," replied Klotz.

Again from Peterson, "Once you give an easement, can you get out of it?"

"No," responded Klotz, also noting that the State Attorney Generals office says that would go against the purpose of getting the easement.

"This is not a high pressure thing at all," added Klotz referring to the program. "Most landowners let people fish."
Fillmore sawmill conditions

As part of a package of Conditional Use Permits (CUP) presented for approval, the Board held a discussion with Fillmore sawmill owner Ken Erding about the conditions the Planning Commission placed on Erdings permit.

The Fillmore County Planning Commission placed two conditions on the approval of Erdings permit. First, Erding must remove the waste pile in the southeast corner of his property: the first 50 feet of waste pile that fronts County Road #8 this year, and the rest of the pile being removed by the end of 2002. The second condition is that Erding must construct a fence on the south and west sides of the mill site by November 1, 2001.

Explaining that he did not have a problem with building the fence, Erding did argue that he is unable to find a home for the waste pile in time to meet the required deadline. The pile has built up over the last twenty years, and because of the dark color of the wood it would not meet the standards for decorative wood chips.

Additionally, Erding argued that the only practical way to remove the pile would be to begin on the backside that is not facing the road, and work towards the road. This option would not allow the sawmill to come into compliance this year.

In the end, a sympathetic Board voted to allow Erding two years to remove the pile, but also allowed him the option of asking for an extension if he has not found a place for all of the wood.
Other CUPs

The Board also tweaked a few other CUPs that were presented for approval. Richland Telecom Towers of Rochester was given permission to construct two, 250-foot towers in the county.

Both towers will serve the cellular phone industry and be constructed near the Highway 52 corridor, one in Section 23 of Canton Township and one near the intersection of Highways 52 & 16 in Preston Township near Union Prairie.

Commissioner Randy Dahl made the motion to approve the towers, and though he didnt make it a condition of the permit, he was adamant that the towers must not have white strobe-type lights at night. It was the understanding of Commissioner Marc Prestby that the law requires white strobe lights during the day and red lights at night.

On an unrelated CUP application, the Board approved a renewal application on a permit for Ron Gehling to operate a rock quarry on his farm in Preston Township. On an initiative by Board Chair Helen Bicknese, the Board changed the time required for the operator to give written notice of blasting to the neighbors from two days to three days.

Dust Control Policy

During a session with the County Engineer, Steve Voigt, the Board approved a Dust Control Policy for Fillmore County roads. This policy will allow property owners along the countys gravel roads to sign up for dust control using Calcium Chloride.

Under the new policy, a public sign up period will occur each year in late February and early March. Residents along the County-owned roadways would have to sign up for two applications, one in the late spring and another in mid summer.

The cost of the dust control would be paid by the property owner or resident requesting the service, and would be based on a rate per gallon and the number of feet of application requested. The specification in the policy calls for .3 gallons per square yard on the first application and .25 gallons per yard on the second.

The County would provide additional dust control at County expense on roads that are either under construction or being used as construction detours.

In response to a question from the Journal, Voigt and the Board affirmed that this policy does not preclude any other action by the Board on dust control with respect to quarry trucks on county roads.

Commissioner Dahl explained that he favored the discussion of a County quarry "output tax" that could be used to pay for dust control on roads leading in and out of quarries. The issue of a lack of dust control on County roads used by quarry haul trucks has been a concern and point of dissension for many residents at past Planning Commission hearings for quarry permit renewals.

By Mike McGrath

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