Update 1/7/2013: The Scandia Planning Commission has voted to recommend the city council DENY a permit for a gravel mine next to the St. Croix River.
The SCRA joined with the Friends of Scandia Parks and Trails (the Friends), National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), and Take Action – Conserve our Scandia (TA-COS) in a joint summary of their shared positions on the proposed conditional use permit (CUP) requested by the Tiller Corporation to re-open and extract gravel from the Zavoral mine located near the intersection of State Highways 95 and 97 in Scandia, Minnesota.
You can read the document in it’s entirety by clicking on “read more” below.
Joint Submission to the
City of Scandia Planning Commission
December 19, 2012
This document is submitted as part of the public record in the matter of the proposed conditional use permit (CUP) requested by applicant Tiller Corporation to re-open and extract gravel from the Zavoral mine located near the intersection of State Highways 95 and 97 in Scandia, Minnesota.
The entities submitting this document are the Friends of Scandia Parks and Trails (the Friends), , National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the St Croix River Association (SCRA), and Take Action – Conserve our Scandia (TA-COS). Each of these entities separately presented to and submitted its own documents at or prior to the Commission’s public forums on December 4 and 12, 2012. This document does not supersede those prior submissions. Instead, this is intended as a summary listing of the shared positions on the CUP held by the four.
For the following reasons the Friends, SCRA, TA-COS, and NPCA together urge the Planning Commission and the Scandia City Council to deny applicant Tiller’s request for a CUP:
1. The applicant has not met the burdens imposed on it by the City of Scandia Development Code. Most specifically, applicant has failed to demonstrate that the mine will “promote and enhance the general public welfare” of the City of Scandia. To the contrary, the evidence and testimony submitted clearly demonstrate that the mine will “be detrimental to or endanger the public health, safety, morals or comfort” of citizens of Scandia and the natural environment. Development Code Chapter 1, Section 8.4(2). Other Code standards not met include those contained in Chapter 1, Sections 8.1, 8.4(1), (3) and (4); 8.5 (1), (4), (6), (7), and (10); and Section 5.9 (the mining ordinance’s section on surface water protection).
2. The acceptance by the Scandia City Council of the Environmental Impact Statement does not require that the Council later approve the proposed CUP. The Minnesota Environmental Policy Act states that after acceptance of the EIS “the permit decision shall include the reasons for the decision, including any conditions under which the permit is issued, together with a final order granting or denying the permit.” Minnesota Statutes, Section 116D.04, Subd 3a.
3. The adoption and amendment of the city’s Development Code and related zoning and other ordinances are legislative actions of the city. As such, they can be amended by the city and applied retroactively to pending matters such as this CUP application. Kraemer Mining and Minerals, vs. City of Sauk Rapids, et al., Minnesota Court of Appeals, July 5, 2011. Under the city’s most recent Comprehensive Plan (“2030”) any mining use on the affected property is absolutely prohibited.
4. Even under the prior Comprehensive Plan (“2020”), the proposed mining activities violate the Development Code sections referenced in #1 above because the proposed activities do not “promote and enhance the general public welfare,” and they will “be detrimental to or endanger the public health, safety, morals or comfort.” Finally, the proposed mining activities are not consistent with both comprehensive plans’ emphases on preserving the city’s rural character and preservation of natural and scenic area. See the record of the public hearings of the Planning Commission for December 4 and 12, 2012, the 2020 and 2030 comprehensive plans, and the following paragraphs.
5. The proposed mining location abuts the St Croix National Scenic Riverway, a unit of the national park system. Projected noise levels for the mining activity will adversely affect the experience of users of the Riverway and would violate applicable federal noise standards. Because the proposed mine will damage the recreational use and enjoyment of the River, it violates the city’s Development Code, Ch. 1, Section 8.4(3) Testimony at the December 4 hearing by National Park Service representatives, and relevant federal noise standards for national parks.
6. Given its location and scale, the proposed mine will threaten and impinge upon ecological systems, native species and habitats of local to international significance. Nine acres of woodland will be damaged, which the Minnesota DNR describes as “a native plant community rare in the St Croix Valley,” and “a loss of biodiversity value.” Vulnerable and rare features known to occur on and near the mine site include but are not limited to: a native brook trout stream that meets standards for state designation, documented occurrences of Louisiana water thrush and butternut trees (both special concern species), and federally endangered mussel species 2000 feet downstream in the St Croix River. The proposed mine is located in a landscape that contains several other designations of significant value, including a MnDNR-designated Regionally Significant Ecological Area, the Rustrum Wildlife Management Area, and St. Croix Bluffs Important Bird Area. Such threats or destruction will not “promote and enhance the general public welfare” as required for a CUP. Testimony at both the December 4 and 12 hearings, MnDNR statements, and Chapter 1, Section 8.4(2) of the Development Code.
7. The use of a single well to establish critical groundwater data is contrary to basic principles of hydrogeology, especially when there is not a well in the “paleo-channel” identified as a major contributor to the blow-out at the site in years past. This defect is compounded by reliance in the EIS of outdated and imprecise maps and hydrogeologic data. These risks are magnified by the “very real expectation of a 10 inch storm event during the period of mining operations at the Zavoral site” and the strong possibility that “increased recharge on the Zavoral site could reactivate the prior blow-out area by raising the local water table, saturating the surficial sediments and weakening their cohesive strength.” Recent research by Scott C. Alexander of the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Minnesota, dated and submitted to the planning commission on December 12, 2012; Chapter 1, Section 5.9 of the Development Code (the mining ordinance), and the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act.
8. Increased truck activity generated by the mine will adversely affect public safety along state Highways 95 and 97, and Lofton and Manning county roads. While the actual number of trucks using these roadways will depend on the approved period of mining, and they may be partially offset by promised traffic reduction from other Tiller sites, there is no question that the number of heavy trucks using the roadways will increase the likelihood of auto and pedestrian accidents. A March 2011 survey of Scandia Elementary School parents (46% response rate) cited speed of traffic (#1 ranking 77%), amount of traffic along route (#3 ranking 72%), and safety of intersections and crossings (#4 ranking 56%) as major traffic safety issues at the school. These concerns related to then current conditions; they obviously do not reflect the increased traffic to be generated by the mine. This survey rebuts the assertions of the Scandia city planner alleging that there are no safety concerns at the school about the increased truck traffic. Scandia Elementary PTO survey, expert testimony presented on December 4, and statements by an abutting landowner.
9. The Scandia city council and planning commission need not determine that every one of the above points would separately justify a denial of the CUP. Instead, the council and commission may use a cumulative standard. Taking together the cumulative potential effects of all the threats summarized in this document, the applicant has not met its burden of establishing that the mining will “promote and enhance the general public welfare.” Instead the law and evidence suggest that the proposed mining activity “will be detrimental to or endanger the public health and safety” of the community, its citizens and the natural environment and will be “injurious to the use and enjoyment of other property in the immediate vicinity.” The Development Code, Ch. 1,Secs. 8.4 (2) and (3), the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act, MN Administrative Rules Chapter 4410 implementing the Act; and 2010 MNEQB Guidelines.
Based on all of the above, the undersigned as representatives of the four entities and the other individuals listed below respectfully contend that the applicant has not met its burdens under Chapter 1 of the Scandia Development Code. The risks are too great, and the consequences too severe. The conditional use permit must be denied.
Friends of Scandia Parks and Trails, by
/s/ Sonia Borg, Scandia MN, Board Chair
/s/ Tom Triplett, Scandia MN, Board member
National Parks Conservation Association, by
/s/ Christine R. Goepfert, Upper Midwest Program Manager, St. Paul, MN
St Croix River Association, by
/s/ Peter Gove, North Oaks MN and Osceola WI, Board Chair
/s/ Bill Clapp, St Paul and Scandia MN, Board member
/s/ Randy Ferrin, Scandia MN, Board member
/s/ Sally Leider, Scandia MN, Board member
Take Action – Conserve our Scandia, by
/s/ Kristin Tuenge, Scandia MN, Board Chair
/s/ Pamela Arnold, Scandia MN, Board member
/s/ Lisa Schlingerman, Scandia MN, Board member
Other persons who contributed to and support this document:
/s/ Laurie Allmann, CMSCWD resident, May Township MN
/s/ John Herman and Diane Herman, Minneapolis and Scandia MN
/s/ Susan Rodsjo and Paul Rodsjo, Scandia MN