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Glenwood City Council postpones action on mining ordinance

Bakke Norman attorney, Terry Dunst, answers questions during a discussion of a new nonmetallic mining ordinance under consideration by the community of Glenwood City.

Several dozen residents braved inclement April weather Thursday night to voice their opinions in front of Mayor John Larson and members of the Glenwood City Council regarding a newly proposed nonmetallic mining ordinance intended to replace the city's existing ordinance.

Larson deflected initial questions regarding annexation reminding residents the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the proposed ordinance. The new ordinance created by the New Richmond law firm Bakke Norman closely resembles a similar ordinance currently being employed by the community of Howard in Chippewa County, according to Bakke attorney Terry Dunst.

"Bakke Norman has worked with numerous communities statewide on similar ordinances," he said. "We've also worked with landowners and opposition groups, but we have no affiliations with any mining companies."

A 21-page draft of the ordinance circulated among the crowd elicited a number of comments. Resident Ken Peterson started the discussion by comparing several sections of the new ordinance with sections of the St. Croix County ordinance noting differences in setback distance, acreage permitted to be openly mined at any given time, look back period at a mining company's history and the role and responsibility for reclamation of a mining site.

When one resident questioned why the city didn't just adopt the county's ordinance, Dunst explained Wisconsin law gives a city's nonmetallic mining ordinance priority over the county's ordinance, provided it also complies with state level regulation.

Another resident questioned whether the city had the expertise and qualifications to be in the business of regulating and enforcing such a complex ordinance. Several residents asked whether the council had investigated any other ordinances in use by surrounding communities.

Mayor Larson admitted he had not, but said he firmly believed the experience Bakke Norman had in developing successful ordinances for a number of other communities would serve the community well. Council member Crystal Booth said she had reviewed the Stanton County ordinance.

Resident Mary Alice Calhoun expressed her fear that adopting this ordinance or allowing any kind of mining operation would be the first step down a slippery slope leading to dire consequences for the city, a city she said she might then have to leave.

Dunst responded by characterizing this ordinance as restrictive on mining, quoting a lawyer representing a mining company as having said, "If you pass this ordinance no mine's ever going to come into your town."

Tom Quinn, a Dunn County Board supervisor and vice chair of the Planning, Resource and Development committee, recounted the lengthy deliberation Dunn County had to create their ordinance and cautioned the city council not to rush this decision. He gave the council a copy of the Dunn County ordinance and offered to help advise them in whatever capacity he could.

He also countered the promise of financial prosperity and employment gain made by mining companies, saying Dunn county had only realized $16,000-$17,000 in annual revenues from mining operations.

"History reinforces the reality that most mining towns suffer a boom and bust lifecycle," he said.

Resident business owner Jim Laskin read from a prepared statement highlighting a number of loopholes in the ordinance and encouraging the council to take their time and do their due diligence before enacting any ordinance.

Council member Crystal Booth suggested that the city create an ad hoc committee composed of council members and volunteers from the community to further research the new ordinance before adopting any new measure. Larson recognized the need for further review of the proposed ordinance but also restated his intention to keep the process moving forward in a reasonable amount of time.

Following the meeting, landowner Scott Teigen said, "It would be good for the community if this thing goes through. It can be done the right way. Nobody on the landowner's side or the mining side is proposing a 100-acre mine."

Teigen said he had not reviewed the proposed ordinance in enough detail to comment on it.

Attorney Anders Helquist, representing Vista Sand said, "Vista's continuing to work with the county and we're continuing to examine our options in the city. We hope to work cooperatively to get a mining permit in an efficient and environmentally sound manner."

"It's encouraging that they are looking into forming a committee with some citizens," said Laskin. "It would be very helpful if they got a lot more information."

He advised the council to, "go see other mining areas to see what it's going to look like in Glenwood City. Go have a talk with the St. Croix County Zoning Department and see what their concerns have been dealing with Vista."

The council took no action on the proposed ordinance. Booth's suggestion and further discussion of the proposed ordinance were added to the agenda for the next regularly scheduled city council meeting, May 6 at 7 p.m. at the municipality building.