On January 7, 2013, the Scandia Planning Commission evaluated the evidence it had received from multiple public hearings and written EIS comments (including from our organization and several SCRA board members) and the standards for conditional use permits contained in the Scandia development code. It then by a vote of 4-0, with one abstention, recommended to the city council to deny a permit to the Tiller Corporation to mine for gravel in the Zavoral abandoned gravel pit.
On January 15, 2013, the Scandia City Council essentially ignored the report of its Planning Commission and instead devoted your meeting to reviewing what conditions should accompany a permit for this project, and, started the wheels in motion to issue a permit. It was as if the Planning Commission’s report did not exist.
I believe I echo the reaction of many in your community in labeling your January 15 deliberations as outrageous. That may be too strong a term, but deeply disappointing certainly is not. I refer not only to your apparent decision to issue a permit but also to the process you followed at your January 15 meeting. I am advised the agenda published for the meeting indicated the subject was the Planning Commission report. Yet you never discussed your Planning Commission’s work, instead going over the conditions for a permit.
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.
There is evidence aplenty to invite reversal in a court of law should you approve this permit. Do not underestimate the potential for a coalition of local, regional and national citizen organizations to seek that review.
In addition, we urge you to not be misled by the debate over which comprehensive plan is applicable. The controlling language on the prerequisites for a CUP is contained in the Development Code – language that was in effect for both comprehensive plans.
The St. Croix River Association urges you to reconsider your position and actions of January 15.
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