Scandia begins work on mine permit application

The Scandia planning commission deliberates after the public hearing Dec. 12. From left are Jan Hogle, Tom Krinke, Chair Christine Maefsky, Peter Schwartz and Steve Philippi. At far right is City Planner Sherri Buss; Tiller executive Mike Caron is in the foreground.

The Scandia planning commission deliberates after the public hearing Dec. 12. From left are Jan Hogle, Tom Krinke, Chair Christine Maefsky, Peter Schwartz and Steve Philippi. At far right is City Planner Sherri Buss; Tiller executive Mike Caron is in the foreground.

The environmental studies are done. Now the City of Scandia must decide whether to grant a conditional use permit to reopen the Zavoral sand and gravel mine.

Located east of the intersection of Scandia Trail (TH-97) and St. Croix Trail (TH-95), the mine is flanked by farm fields on the north and south. On the east are trees, railroad track and the St. Croix River.

Ruling on the permit will be the final stage in a process that began in 2008, when Tiller Corporation applied to the newly incorporated City of Scandia for a mining permit.

In 2009 Scandia voted to supplement the required Environmental Assessment Worksheet with a more comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement. In September of 2012, the council ruled the EIS adequate.

The permit application is under review by the Scandia planning commission, which will recommend to the council by Jan. 2 whether to grant the permit, and if so, with what conditions. The council must rule by Feb. 20.

The planning commission began the process with a two-part public hearing on Dec. 4 and Dec. 12. The first meeting drew a crowd of about 150; the second about 100.

Opposition groups took advantage of one last chance to speak. The attorney for Take Action—Conserve Our Scandia urged the city to deny the permit because of increased risk of traffic collisions, unacceptable noise levels on the St. Croix River and diminished property values, and because mining is incompatible with the city’s comprehensive plan.

The superintendent of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway said allowing the rumbling noise of trucks is inconsistent with protecting the river.

Tiller Corporation has been accused of timing the application to ensure the mining permit would be considered under the city’s old comprehensive plan, which allowed mining at the site. The current plan, adopted in March 2009, does not.

Kirsten Pauly of Sunde Engineering challenged that with a list of dates. Tiller first asked her to prepare the application to reopen the mine in 2002, she said. Because the township of New Scandia was considering incorporating as a city, Washington County (the regulatory authority for mining in townships) discouraged Tiller from submitting the application at that time.

In 2003 and 2004, Pauly continued, Tiller met twice with the planning commission to discuss removing stockpiled sand and gravel left behind from previous mining operation. In 2006 Tiller met with the town board and established an escrow account to pay for environmental review. As soon as possible after the new City of Scandia adopted a mining ordinance, Pauly said, the application was submitted.

City attorney Vince Stevens said that the city, having stated that the application will be considered under the old comprehensive plan, may risk a lawsuit if it instead uses the current one.

Members of the planning commission toured the site on Wednesday, Dec. 19. They will meet again on Thursday, Dec. 22 and Wednesday, Jan. 2, the deadline for making a decision.

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