The question of whether or not a new gravel mine on a St. Croix River bluff will be approved has taken an unexpected twist. The city of Scandia has called a special meeting for next Thursday, May 26, to consider requesting a second opinion on legal issues regarding the Tiller/Zavoral mine, after previously supporting the mine and allowing repeated extensions of its environmental review.
The mine’s environmental review is far behind schedule and now the Scandia city council is considering asking for legal advice to answer questions about that delay, according to vocal group of local citizens organized as Take Action – Conserve Our Scandia (T.A.-C.O.S.).
T.A.-C.O.S. members say that not only should the city end the review process because of the repeated missed deadlines, but that the city’s zoning ordinances don’t allow mining in the first place. The citizen group points to several potential negative impacts from the mine, including runoff into the St. Croix River, reduced property values, and increased traffic along Highway 97 — possibly as many as 480 trucks per day.
At a regular city council meeting on Tuesday, the city voted for another extension of the environmental review, despite objections by community members. In an e-mail to mine opponents after the meeting, activist Lisa Phillipi wrote:
Once again our city attorney (Dave Hebert) advised the Council to dismiss Dorsey’s legal opinion and approve the new extended time schedule for completion of the EIS. Hebert backed up his information to the council with no fact and just his opinion, making comments to Kieran’s arguments like “I don’t think you can do this”. Tiller’s attorney basically said that the final outcome was at the discretion of the City Council. The fact is that Hebert gave the Council bad advice to accept the application under the old Comprehensive Plan and zoning ordinances when it was filed. He continues to advise them that now, there is no other alternative. The previous City Council was left to believe there was no other option other than take his advise and the current Council appears to believe they are bound by the other decisions. All five City Council members voted in favor of extending the EIS timeline and doing nothing else.
Those of us who attended think that “the hand writing is on the wall.” With Hebert’s advice this council wills most likely vote for the mine, no matter what is in the EIS.
The e-mail also included a call to action asking citizens to contact the council and ask them to seek the opinion of another attorney about the issue of whether or not the city is in a position to legally deny the permit to mine.
The mine environmental review began in 2009, with the Environmental Impact Statement commencing in August of that year. At the time, it was believed the review would take about a year.
View Tiller/Zavoral proposed mine site in a larger map