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Glenwood City Council adopts mining ordinance

On a steamy evening when there were more than enough chairs to accommodate the 20 or so citizens who attended a special meeting of the Glenwood City Council, Mayor John Larson, inspired by the tenor of recent public meetings, opened proceedings by announcing he'd googled "civil discourse" and proceeded to read aloud the definition.

He immediately followed the reading by notifying everyone in attendance that there would be no public comments permitted at the meeting. A citizen sitting in the front row, possibly anticipating such a decree, vocally challenged the mayor for characterizing citizens as "gossips" and was promptly escorted from the proceedings by a police officer.

So began the council's deliberation of a new nonmetallic mining ordinance, which it has been studying for the past several months.

Before a silent but attentive audience that included landowner Scott Teigen and Vista Sand attorney, Anders Helquist, Bakke Norman attorney Terry Dunst, author of the new ordinance, summarized three possible draft ordinances before the council.

The first was a draft recommended by the study committee to the council dated Aug. 6.

The second draft included changes to the first draft suggested by the school district. Dunst walked the board through the changes suggested by the school district explaining his reasoning for accepting or rejecting each change.

A third draft incorporated the school district changes recommended for approval by attorney Dunst.

Dunst finished his summary by reminding the board of all of their options, including not acting on the ordinance that evening. He characterized the city's existing ordinance as inadequate and any of the three choices as substantially better options. He also reminded them that should they choose not to enact a new ordinance, oversight of nonmetallic mining would continue to reside with St. Croix County.

Following a brief discussion, council member Dave Graese made a motion to accept version three of the ordinance, which incorporated those suggestions by the school district approved by attorney Dunst. A quick review of the ordinance shows that it resembles one currently employed by the Town of Howard in Chippewa County and it also contains many of the provisions currently required by St. Croix County for nonmetallic mining operations.

One difference, it increases active mining acreage from the 20 acres allowed by the county to 35 acres, not including processing and storage acreage. The new ordinance also provides for special exceptions to Section 6 - the License Application and Section 7 - Minimum Standards of Operation.

Public hearings regarding a completed application would be held at the sole discretion of the city council. Council member Terry Klinger seconded the motion and the board voted to approve the new ordinance 5 to 1. Council member, Crystal Booth, cast the lone dissenting vote. The vote likely sets in motion an annexation debate, the next big obstacle to realizing a frac sand mining operation in Glenwood City.

Following the meeting, Booth explained her opposition.

"I don't think we need to have mines within the city limits and this may be a first step toward having mines within the city," she said. "There is land already within the city that could have mines on it and that makes me a little bit nervous. The whole idea gives me pause."

Given the passage of the new ordinance, is the city capable of managing such an ordinance? Booth responded, "That is yet to be determined."