REZONING REQUEST GOES TO SUPERVISORS

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By Molly Moser

Guttenberg Press

 

It was standing room only at last week meeting of the Clayton County Planning and Zoning committee, where Mike Finnegan and Anne Osmundson presented the finalized report of the mine reserve study group, formed in response to a request from Pattison Sand to rezone over 700 acres of land along Great River Road. The report includes recommended restrictions for mining operations should the land be rezoned. The Planning and Zoning Committee then addressed Pattison Sand Company and landowners’ requests to rezone land from A-1 to M-2 to mine underground, process, store and ship silica sand and its by product underground.

Mike Tucker, Doug Reimer, Kari Friedlein, Bob Brown, Mary Klink, Mike Finnegan, Becky Spielbauer, Roland Clinton, Bruce Kann, Anne Osmundson, Janet Ott, and Allan Troester gathered around a long table at the front of the crowded room. 

Mine reserve study group member Anne Osmundson addressed the committee with the reminder that the report came from a group of five people with differing biases and personalities. “Keep in mind that the report doesn’t necessarily reflect all five of us,” she said, adding, “Keep in mind the report doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of the public.”

Osmundson and Finnegan did not review the report with those present, but gave their comments. After meeting with geologists, hydrologists, college professors, and the county engineer, Osmundson said, “My overall impression was that rezoning these properties would be no problem to the community’s air quality or water quality. We took a lot of time to address citizen’s concerns, which is what this report is. The restrictions are written to protect the public without regard to employees. Many restrictions are aimed at Pattison without taking into consideration regulations already imposed on them. I would encourage you to remember that we’re talking about five applicants’ properties to rezone.”

Study group member Mike Finnegan told the committee, “We are only concerned about the landowner applications on this mining project. Some of the recommendations for restrictions in the report go above that, so when we look through this report tonight we have to keep that in mind. We’re not concerned about Pattison Mining Company; they’re on their own. We’re only concerned about these landowners and whether we should accept their application or not.” He also noted that Pattison Sand has a current taxable value of $7.2 million, and as a school board member added that the economic impact the mine has on the school is a positive one.  “These people out there saying no – when they say no, they’re saying no to our kids. Just keep that in mind. There is a distinct value of the sand mine to our town. All this money goes full circle in our town. They help pay the bills. That’s what we need,” said Finnegan. 

The committee then heard comments from both sides of the issue. Many spoke for and against the proposed rezoning as well as the restrictions put forth by the committee, including Pattison employees, landowners, neighbors, and Kyle Pattison himself. The discussion became heated at times, and a three-minute time limit was imposed on speakers. 

Following the public comment period, Osmundson made a motion to reword the request as stated on the agenda, “rezone land from A-1 to M-2 to mine underground, process, store and ship silica sand and its by product underground,” to “rezone land from A-1 to M-2 to mine underground.” 

“The shipping happens in a truck,” she said. “I don’t want that to be misconstrued to think the processing cannot happen above ground. Shipping is above ground.” A unanimous vote passed to recommend the rewording and rezoning to the board of supervisors, who have scheduled two public hearings for Monday, August 15, and Monday, August 22, both at 1 p.m. in the Supervisors office at the Clayton County office building in Elkader. 

The committee then discussed if and how to recommend any of the restrictions suggested by the study committee, who worked for seven months to develop their report. Ott pointed out that the supervisors can go against the planning and zoning recommendation, or add to it. If the zoning change is approved, a conditional use permit to allow mining must be obtained from the Board of Adjustments at a later date.

Finnegan made a motion to recommend restrictions four and five with regard to water testing. There were no seconds from the committee, and no further discussion about any of the restrictions recommended by the study group. “I think the board of adjustments will be taking a hard look at the report with their conditional use permit,” said Ott before the meeting was adjourned.

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