St. Croix 360 Special Feature
Good Neighbors: Scandia and the St. Croix
An up-close report on the gravel mine proposal next to the river as the city prepares to decide its fate.
The stretch of the St. Croix River from Osceola to Copas offers startling solitude and silence. Even though it is in the city of Scandia’s backyard, a half-hour from Stillwater and Forest Lake, and an hour from the Twin Cities, float below the bluffs and you can feel a hundred miles from anywhere.
A short trip on the river offers eagles and herons, swimming holes where spring-fed creeks spill from the bluffs into the river, and fish ranging from scrappy smallmouth bass to mythical muskies.
This peaceful stretch of river also passes by the site of a proposed gravel mine in Scandia, which has been hotly debated for the past several years and is finally nearing conclusion this winter. Tiller Corp. and the landowner, a doctor from Edina who has a cabin on the river below the site, want to mine and restore the land, while others want to keep the area free of noise, trucks, and pollution.
In the middle are the citizens who serve in Scandia’s government.
Coming to a Close
On the first Monday of January, the city’s Planning Commission voted on a recommendation to the city council about the mine. The commission had been considering a Conditional Use Permit since environmental review was concluded in September.
Monday’s meeting did not include any public comment — in a big room the five members of the commission and four city staff talked to each other in front of an audience of about 50 who watched the discussion in silence.
Two resolutions were up for consideration. One recommended approval of the permit, with a lengthy list of conditions meant to mitigate its impact. The other recommended denying the application, and carried with it a long list of whereases explaining the reasoning — a list which everyone knew might have to stand up in court.
The commission had spent two meetings discussing the resolution to approve and spent this meeting reviewing the resolution to deny, before voting.
Previous meetings had featured lots of input from the public. Citizens spoke against the possibility of noise intruding on the St. Croix, or the possibility of groundwater contamination, impacts on fragile bluff lands, or the heavy truck traffic on Highways 95 and 97 and through the town.
Supporters of the mine pointed to changes in the proposal to reduce impacts, the benefit of reclamation activities after mining, and the need for gravel to make road material.
Opponents, supporters and those trying to make sense of the complicated issue all look to the legal landscape — and the possibility of the company suing the city if the permit is denied.
The time for talk was over, though, and Monday there was finally a vote.
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