Larry Thompson and his son Lance, operators of the Rein Sand Pit (now Highland Sand), have requested approval for additional industrial sand haul routes. The public hearing attracted a crowd of concerned citizens to the December 7 Fillmore County Planning Commission. Thompson wants the additional hauling routes approved to allow sand to be hauled to potential buyers.
A four-and-a-half-year-old road impact agreement with Thompson detailed one approved haul route: northeast on County Road (CR) 10 to CR 37, travel southeast on CR 37 to State Highway 43, north on Highway 43 through Rushford into Winona County. The route is detailed from there into the city of Winona.
The industrial mine is located at 37825 CR 10 in Holt Township. Chairman Gary Ruskell made it clear from the beginning of the public hearing that the sand pit is in compliance. This hearing is just to hear from the public about the requested additional haul routes. The current road impact agreement dated May 9, 2013, requires a request for a change of haul routes to come before the Planning Commission. The approved haul route described above was a condition of the conditional use permit issued to the mining operator.
Thompson explained that interest in industrial sand has increased recently. There is a potential buyer for sand in Iowa and the current haul route is not feasible for that destination. This is the only industrial mine being operated at this time in Fillmore County.
County Engineer Ron Gregg acknowledged he has looked at the proposed routes. He explained MnDot’s Pavement Quality Index rating and then added that the roads to be used for the proposed routes are in fair condition. Gregg said there is a formula to measure the amount of damage from truck loads. He helped put together the original agreement.
Besides the existing haul route, two additional routes plus an alternative route were requested. Duane Bakke maintained he was not in favor of the alternative route which would potentially be used in case of an accident or road construction on a designated route, requiring a detour. Bakke said in the case of an accident, police will direct traffic to a detour and the ordinance requires a temporary agreement in the case of road construction.
Bakke explained the existing route has trucks traveling on county roads for 7.4 miles and a total of 17.5 miles to the county border. A second route CR 10 to CR 23 to CR 12 to CR 21 to State Highway 52 (Canton) south to Iowa requires 12 miles on county roads and a total of 16.5 miles to the Iowa border. A third route CR 10 to CR 23 to CR 12 to State Highway 52 (Preston) north to state highway 14 west toward Mankato requires 9.2 miles on county roads and 27.5 miles to the Olmsted County line.
Bakke also compared traffic counts. CSAH 1 is the heaviest traveled Fillmore County road, 2,200 vehicles per day. State Highway 52 sees 3,000 to 6,100 vehicles per day depending on the section of highway measured. CR 10 daily count is 640, CR 21 is 620, and CR 12 is 630.
The CUP for the mine limits the number of loads leaving the mine to 120 per day. The ordinance limits hours of operation and allows year-round operation. There is no operation allowed on Sundays or federal holidays. Adding additional approved routes will not affect the limit of 120 loads per day leaving the mine.
Zoning Administrator Cristal Adkins said there is nothing in the ordinance (736 “Excavating and Mining of Industrial Minerals and Metals”) that prohibits additional haul routes.
Public weighs in
At least 13 citizens expressed their concerns and directed questions to commission members, Adkins, and Gregg.
Vern Crowson, Pilot Mound Township, spoke for citizens who choose not to come before the commission in a public setting, but who do have concerns. He insisted the number of trucks going by one’s place does make a difference. Ruskell maintained if the sand is going to Iowa, the original route does not make sense.
Mike Jensen, north of Lanesboro, questioned whether the extra tonnage was figured into road wear. Gregg said under the current agreement there is a road impact fee imposed on the operator. The single vehicle computation is based upon an Equivalent Single Axle Load (ESAL). It is to be figured on current construction costs. Four years ago this was 22 cents per ton per mile for every truck. Payments from the operator are to be used on the designated haul route. The road impact fee should be based on current construction costs which should be reviewed and adjusted every two years. Jensen insisted traffic on county roads impact what happens in Lanesboro as it can affect tourism.
Aaron Bishop, Harmony, asked if the towns on the routes had been contacted. One route goes through Preston on Highway 52, but the other proposed route does not go through the city of Canton. Bakke noted the trucks are licensed and insured. Mayor Jim Westby, Mabel, commented that he appreciates added traffic through town; it helps economically.
Bruce Kuehmichel, Houston County, warned that a precedent may be established for other mining operations. Bonita Underbakke, Holt Township, was also concerned about the precedent of allowing a change in a conditional use permit so the operator can make a greater profit. She noted the county has a five-year plan for road maintenance. Is the additional road wear from the sand trucks going to delay the goal of maintaining roads and bridges in the five year plan?
Wayne Finnegan said CR 12 affects him, adding “I’m not happy at all.” The roads will get beat up and be under construction more. “This guy is stomping on the rest of us.”
Harvey Benson, Harmony, asked the commission members to please remember our children’s and grandchildren’s tomorrows depend on what you do today.
Eva Barr, Wykoff, maintained there will be significant environmental impact. She suggested the county is desperate for industry and will support it at all cost.
Dale Forster, Lanesboro, maintained Fillmore County is not getting enough compensation. He suggested there be more study before the permit is acted on. Gregg said there will be a separate agreement for each haul route. Bakke asked Gregg to look at current construction costs and see if the road impact fee needs to be adjusted.
Thompson noted that Fillmore County’s ordinance for industrial mining has been a template for other counties. He complemented the commission on the good work.
Jane Peck insisted the commission is opening Pandora’s box if they go back and change it. Bakke made it clear this is not a change to the ordinance itself, only the road impact agreement. He thanked the audience for good, civil discussion. He repeated this is a change only in the haul route permit, adding the county engineer will look at a possible update to the impact fee.
Adkins noted when the road impact agreement was made Winona was the only market destination.
Each load out of the Rein Pit will carry a ticket that dictates the route to use and the destination. More than one approved route may be used on a particular day. The total loads from the pit on any day will be limited to 120. Routes were selected to be the safest with the greatest driver site distance and greater shoulder widths. Loads will be limited to legal weights.
Andy Bisek commented after the public hearing portion of the meeting that the ordinance allows 120 loads per day; any haul route is going to impact someone. He moved to recommend approval of the route change request; the original route and two more routes (not the alternative route). The motion was approved unanimously. Gregg is directed to review construction costs and the road impact fee.
The request for additional routes with the Planning Commission’s recommendation will now go to the county board for their consideration.
Board of Adjustment
Daniel and Susan Swartzentruber, Section 36, Preston Township, requested a variance from Section 604.05 (2) (a) for the construction of a shed. Adkins noted an eight foot variance is needed from the required setback from the center of the road. The road (166th St.) is a dead end road with no site issues. The variance was unanimously approved.