It seems likely that a gravel mine will soon be operating on the bluffs of the St. Croix River near Scandia. After years of debate and vocal opposition from within the community, the city’s leader have indicated they are ready to approve a permit for Tiller Corp’s proposed mine.
At a meeting last week, Scandia’s city council focused on the conditions and restrictions that would be included in a Conditional Use Permit for the mine. This was in contrast to the Planning Commission’s discussion in January, which culminated in a recommendation to deny the permit, with a resolution full of reasons why.
The Pioneer Press reported:
The council met Tuesday, Jan. 15, and directed staff to prepare the resolution with more than 90 conditions for the Tiller Corp. mine and reclamation project. Among the conditions: ongoing monitoring of groundwater, traffic, noise and dust, said city administrator Kristina Handt.
Tiller, based in Maple Grove, is seeking permission to extract sand and gravel from 64 acres of the 114-acre site, which is owned by Jim Zavoral. The property is just east of where Minnesota highways 95 and 97 intersect and hasn’t been mined since the 1980s.
The council also directed staff to plan for a mining period of three to five years. The other options were an abbreviated 150-day schedule or a longer five- to 10-year plan.
“They wanted to get it done in the shortest amount of time possible while not increasing traffic or noise,” Handt said. Under the 150-day schedule, there could have been as many as 736 trucks trips a day; under the three-to-five year plan, about 600 daily truck trips are expected, she said.
The Country Messenger has a lengthy article describing the discussion about various conditions, including length of mining, groundwater protection, and impacts on property values.
The St. Croix River Association (a St. Croix 360 partner) sent a letter to the city council expressing outrage, not just that the council is moving to approve the mine, but that it ignored the Planning Commission’s work:
The Scandia Planning Commission put a considerable amount of effort and thought into their assignment. Their recommendation to deny the permit was based on facts in the public record and the requirements of the Scandia mining ordinance and development code.
Our organization believes the Planning Commission’s findings should be reviewed in public. We also believe you owe it to the many Scandia residents who provided input to the process through TA-COS and other local organizations, the multiple individuals who presented information and argument and to the National Park Service – – to be open and forthright in a public forum about why you are prepared to grant this permit, in spite of the overwhelming testimony you received in opposition to this project.
Please remember that the burden is on the applicant for a CUP to demonstrate how mining will not be harmful to the community. It is the position of our organization that Tiller Corporation has not met that burden. Indeed substantial evidence was provided of threats to traffic safety, to devaluation of neighboring properties, and, to potential impairment of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, and tributary streams.
The city’s website reports that the Council will review the resolution to approve, developer agreement, and annual operating permit at its February 12 work session beginning at 6:30 p.m. A final vote is expected at the February 19 regular Council meeting beginning at 7 p.m.