The Fillmore County Planning Commission faced an unusually busy agenda at their July 23 meeting.
Public hearings were held on two applications for conditional use permits: a Rock Quarry by Skyline Materials, Ltd. and a Meteorological Tower by Timberwolf Wind, LLC.
Skyline Materials, Ltd.
The application for the Eickhoff Rock Quarry was submitted by Greg Bruening, Skyline Materials, Ltd., to be established on land owned by David, Darlene, and Harlan Eickhoff in section 30, Fountain Township. About 30 acres are included in the proposed quarry boundary. Phase 1 portion of the quarry is 2.29 acres.
A letter signed by Paul Hamann, president Fountain Township board, noted the support of the township supervisors for a CUP for a quarry on Lantern Rd. They requested two conditions be attached to the CUP: assistance in road maintenance due to increased truck traffic, and dust control. Several neighboring private property owners submitted letters expressing their concerns and questions about the proposed quarry.
The Minnesota DNR also noted several concerns due to the potential impact to Watson Creek. DNR hydrologist Nicole Lehman expressed in an earlier meeting concerns about mining impacts to nearby springs and Watson Creek. There was also a concern that mining would encounter groundwater and intercept spring flow.
The proposed quarry is in close proximity to a cave that has colonies of the Little Brown Bat. The DNR requested a Natural Heritage Review to determine if a bat survey is needed. A permit will not be issued until the review result is received.
The DNR recommended two conditions be added to CUP findings. They also recommended several details be added to the mining plan.
A representative of Bruening Rock Products, Inc. explained the plan is to have a phased expansion. A year’s supply of rock is crushed and stockpiled at a time. The quarry is usually active mostly during months May through October.
David and Alyssa Johnson who live about one-half mile from the proposed quarry had a list of issues and concerns. They own property on both sides of Lantern Rd. and were concerned about truck traffic volume, speed, and dust control. Alyssa requested a speed bump. She was opposed to the use of sap or sodium chloride for dust control. They expressed concern for their children, dogs, and livestock. Alyssa suggested the quarry will reduce their property value.
Zoning Administrator Cristal Adkins commented that the county assessor did not believe property values would be negatively affected. Alyssa asked for a karst investigation. Adkins noted the DNR letter said requirements had been satisfied. Alyssa asked if they could guarantee blasting wouldn’t open sink holes. It was explained that sink holes can open up without blasting/quarry. David then said he felt the commission members were trying to talk us into it. Alyssa added, “it seems you already have your minds made up.”
A Bruening representative reported that on average the Douglas Quarry is in operation about 18% of working days. David said while trucks are hauling, every truck goes through our property. Limiting the speed of the trucks was discussed. Adkins reported that she was shocked to learn that the speed limit on gravel roads is 55 mph. The quarry hours would be 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday.
Mike Sogla explained that he had just remodeled his house and was concerned about cracks in drywall from blasting. Bruening said a third party can do a thorough home inspection with photographic detail to document any cracks or other imperfections prior to blasting. This will protect both parties.
Sogla was also concerned about Jake breaking, truck traffic, dust control, and reduction of property value. Adkins said they don’t have data showing that a quarry will devalue property.
Commissioner Duane Bakke reported that this is only the second new rock quarry application in the last 25 years. Fountain Township supervisor Dan Schmidt stated the township spends about $60,000 per year on rock. Much of the expense is trucking.
Sogla asked that a condition be added that this quarry only be used for crushing rock and not as an asphalt plant.
Bakke asked about the housing inspection/analysis; how often is it done and how costly is it. The Bruening representative explained it costs about $400 to $500, takes several hours to do, and often is done on homes within a half mile or so of the quarry.
Alyssa Johnson said she had been told that the company would be willing to blacktop a portion of road through their property. This brought up issues of who would maintain it. It was suggested that ground asphalt be used. Arlynn Hovey explained in Carimona Township this would not be allowed because of surface change and possible safety issues.
The CUP was approved with 10 conditions. Steve Duxbury abstained. 1) DNR condition limiting the proposed mining area until the geology and hydrogeology in this area are further evaluated to confirm the presence or absence of groundwater above the finished floor elevation. If groundwater is above this elevation, the quarry’s finished floor elevation will be modified to be above the water table. 2) Contact DNR hydrologist should any new groundwater conduits become exposed during mining. 3) Assist Fountain Township with maintenance on Lantern Rd. as requested. 4) No on-road parking (Lantern Rd. to State Hwy. 16). 5) No Jake breaks allowed. 6) No asphalt plants allowed in permitted quarry site. 7) Must complete a home inspection on parcels 23.0210.000 and 23.0210.010 (Johnson and Sogla). 8) Must comply with findings of Natural Heritage Review. 9) Must maintain the existing grass waterway on the quarry property. 10) Trucks entering and exiting the quarry must adhere to a 30 mph speed limit.
Timberwolf Wind, LLC
Timberwolf Wind, LLC applied for a conditional use permit to erect a Meteorological Tower in section 15, Bristol Township on land owned by Nagels Rolling Acres LLC.
Tom Vonbische, representing NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, explained the temporary 196-foot meteorological tower is to be erected to validate/confirm wind resources for a potential wind farm. The tower will be operational a minimum of two years, up to five years. The stainless steel pole will have guide wires.
There was no comment from the township supervisors or the public. The application was approved unanimously. The county board will consider the application at their August 4 meeting.
Two ordinance amendments proposed
The next meeting of the Planning Commission is scheduled for August 20. This day the commission approved a motion to take two proposed ordinance amendments to public hearing.
The first is a proposed amendment to 604.03 Conditional Uses in the Ag District. “Non-agricultural commercial or industrial uses can be located in existing buildings, not previously permitted as a dwelling, sited adjacent to the US 52, US 63, State Hwy 16, and State Hwy 56 corridors.” The amendment adds State Hwy 56 to allow a commercial or industrial use of the former Artesian Water Bottling plant building.
The second is a proposed septic system ordinance amendment to 501. (2) Alternative Local Standards Requirements. “A gray water system may not be installed by the landowner if the system involves the use of a pump. Pressurized systems, pre-treatment systems, at-grades or mounds cannot be constructed by anyone other than a licensed installer.” (Gravity flow gray water systems can still be installed by the landowner).
Board of Adjustment
A public hearing was held on a variance request by Daren Hofschulte, representing Robert Kahoud, section 5, Fountain Township. Due to the location of the driveway it is necessary to set the septic tank closer to a structure (house) than required by the ordinance. There was no comment from the public. A 3-foot variance to the 10-foot requirement was approved.