Permit request forwarded to City Council
The Columbus City Council was set to vote this Wednesday, June 12, on a permit that would allow soil mining at John’s Black Dirt on 189th Avenue. The site was last open for mining three years ago.
Neighbors opposing the permit request attended last Wednesday’s Columbus Planning Commission meeting, but the required public hearing was held in May.
Columbus planning commissioners visited the two dirt pits last Wednesday, where they were greeted by several neighbors. Much of the crowd followed along to City Hall, where the board voted to recommend the City Council’s approval of an interim use permit to allow further mining over 10 years.
Residents who opposed to the permit’s scope and the prospect of heavy truck traffic made it known from the floor when they disagreed with commissioners’ ideas.
The 58-acre parcels at John’s Black Dirt contain an estimated 490,000 cubic yards of extractable soils. Forest Lake Contracting Inc. would remove the remaining soils over 10 years. In 2010, more than 100,000 cubic yards were mined and hauled for work on the Washington County Road 83 overpass, which is south of the freeway rest area in Forest Lake.
If the Columbus council approves the permit, 189th Avenue would see up to 10 trucks coming to load during a peak hour. As a permit condition, the city is asking for a surety bond of $250,000 to cover any road repairs as needed.
Forest Lake Contracting considers the request to be exorbitant, as an existing conditional use permit for John’s Black Dirt carries a bond of only $5,000. The company has countered with a bond offer for $50,000 to cover obligations for road repair and site restoration. Company officials said that mill-and-overlay work to replace the top 1 1/2 inches of 189th Avenue in Columbus would cost less than half of the city’s $250,000 request.
City Engineer Larry Bohrer said that was accurate, however, he added, “I can’t predict that if the road was damaged, it would be corrected with the top inch-and-a-half.”
A full reconstruction would cost closer to $250,000, he said.
Planning Commissioner Jesse Preiner said the number seemed unfair for Forest Lake Contracting.
“Let’s pick something in the middle,” he said, drawing uproar from the audience. “That just seems like a huge jump (to $250,000). We shouldn’t punish them for doing business.”
Commissioner Andy Anderson spoke in favor of the $250,000 surety bond.
“I don’t believe it’s burdensome, and I don’t think it’s hurting business,” he said. “I think we’re protecting ourselves.”