By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — After months of hard work, the Dunn County Planning, Resources and Development committee has approved a draft of an ordinance for a nonmetallic mining overlay district.
The PR&D committee put the final tweaks on the ordinance September 5 during a meeting that lasted more than three hours.
The committee also was scheduled to meet the next day to finish reviewing the ordinance if the extra time had been needed.
The proposed ordinance is 25 pages long and would regulate industrial sand mining activities in Dunn County.
Sand used for bedding cattle and for personal use, such as a residential construction project, are among the uses that would be exempt from the nonmetallic mining overlay district regulations.
“We have reached a point where we can present a draft to the public and then gather comments at the public hearing,” said Joe Plouff, county board supervisor from Menomonie and chair of the PR&D committee.
The PR&D committee tentatively scheduled a public hearing on the proposed ordinance for October 9. If the public hearing is held earlier in October, the Dunn County Board could then consider adopting the ordinance on October 17.
The proposed ordinance is “new territory” for Dunn County because it legislates a detailed application process and performance standards for industrial sand mining but also leaves a certain amount of discretion to the Dunn County Zoning Board of Appeals to evaluate each situation and to set conditions, said Scott Cox, Dunn County corporation counsel.
“This is like no other ordinance in our county zoning,” he said.
A law firm out of Milwaukee reviewed the proposed draft of the mining overlay district ordinance and suggested some changes, Cox said.
Dunn County’s insurance company retained the law firm to review the proposed draft of the zoning ordinance, he said.
If the Dunn County Board approves the mining overlay district ordinance, companies proposing to operate industrial sand mines would first have to apply for a rezone. The PR&D committee would hold a public hearing on the proposal for a rezone and would make a recommendation to the Dunn County Board to approve or deny the rezone.
The proposal to operate an industrial sand mine would not come before the Board of Adjustment for a special exception until the overlay district is approved, Cox said.
The Board of Adjustment would grant a permit for operating an industrial sand mine only after the mine operator makes a case as to why the permit should be approved, he said.
Just because an application has been submitted to the county, “this is not something the mine operator is entitled to,” Cox said.
Dunn County’s existing zoning ordinance requires a rezone to industrial for operating a nonmetallic mine.
Lack of interest
The Dunn County Board approved a six-month moratorium on nonmetallic mining in Dunn County in January that expired at the end of July.
The county board extended the moratorium for three months at the July meeting to allow additional time for finishing the overlay district ordinance.
County board members said in January that they wanted to talk to people from the sand mining industry, and since January, the PR&D committee has gone through five or six drafts of the proposed ordinance, noted Bob Walter, county board supervisor from Menomonie and a member of the PR&D committee.
Only one representative from the industry — Candy Anderson with Mathy Construction — has been at all of the meetings discussing sand mining in Dunn County, Walter said.
“The industry has let us down … we have not heard from them with only one exception,” he said.
Mathy Construction/Milestone Materials operates construction aggregate quarries although Milestone has recently begun mining sand out of the Downing quarry.
Dunn County’s highway engineer, Jesse Rintala, had been working on putting together a checklist procedure for sand mines that includes a traffic impact analysis and driveway permits, noted Steve Rasmussen, county board supervisor from Boyceville and chair of the Dunn County Board.
“With no driveway permit, there is no (sand) business,” he noted.
Vista Sand, a company proposing to operate an industrial sand mine just south of Glenwood City in St. Croix County, has applied for a rezone to industrial to operate a sand loading facility along U.S. Highway 12 between county Highway K and 330th Street not far from Knapp.
The existing Dunn County ordinance requires a rezone to industrial for operating an industrial sand mine along with a special exception granted by the Board of Adjustment.
Applications for rezones were exempt from the Dunn County nonmetallic mining moratorium, although granting a special exception for a nonmetallic mining activity would not be allowed under the moratorium.
The Dunn County PR&D committee held a public hearing on the Vista Sand request for a rezone on August 28 and is scheduled to make a decision on the rezone September 11.
If the PR&D committee were to recommend approval of the rezone for Vista Sand, the Dunn County Board would then have to consider whether to approve the rezone.
Here are some of the provisions contained in the proposed nonmetallic mining overlay district ordinance for Dunn County:
• If an industrial sand mining operation ceases for 12 months, the overlay district would expire.
• The overlay district applies to the life of the mine, defined as the period from the time that the mining permit is issued until all of the reclamation is finished.
• The ordinance excludes certain kinds of nonmetallic mining activity such as sand for sand blasting, animal bedding, sand for personal use at a farm or a residence and nonmetallic mines less than one acre. All construction aggregate is a specially permitted use and does not require an overlay in Exclusive Agriculture, Agriculture 2 and 3 and Industrial zones if the operation is 25 acres or less. Operations over 25 acres do not need an overlay district but do require a special exception.
• The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) definition of sand mining will be used in the ordinance.
• An industrial sand mine in Dunn County, regardless of the size, will require an overlay district.
• The use of the sand, not the number of acres, defines an industrial sand mine and requires a rezone to a mining overlay district before going to the Board of Adjustment for a special exception permit. Previous drafts of the ordinance set a size for requiring a mining overlay district.
• All industrial sand mining activities, including transloading facilities, would require approval of a mining overlay district and are special exceptions included in the mining overlay district. Under the county’s existing zoning ordinance, a railroad terminal is a special exception under industrial zoning. Freight terminals are permitted, but the ordinance draws a distinction between freight terminals and railroad terminals and requires a special exception for railroad terminals. Other commodities, such as wheat or corn or cars, could be shipped from the same railroad facility under industrial zoning. Sand stockpiling areas and processing plants also would require a nonmetallic mining overlay district.
• The overlay ordinance sets a standard for rezoning requiring the rezone to be in compliance with the county’s comprehensive land use plan.
• The ordinance allows county officials to consider the impact of the mining overlay district on other municipalities, such as traffic impacts on Downing, Boyceville and Knapp. Gary Bjork, county board supervisor from Colfax and a PR&D committee member, wondered about “protecting Boyceville” even though Boyceville has its own zoning and is not under county zoning. Cox said it was his opinion that the county could consider impacts of a mining overlay district to a municipality located in the county but not under county zoning.
• A minimum deposit of $5,000 is required with the application for a mining overlay district to pay for review expenses. If the application is turned down, the remaining balance will be returned to the applicant. The applicant shall replace the depleted administrative fee deposits within 14 days of being notified by the county to do so.
• The application must contain evidence of the applicant’s ability to carry out the project, including the method of financing.
• The application must include a variety of maps, including a topographic map of residential, agricultural and municipal wells within one mile; a map showing all surface waters within one mile; a transportation impact analysis map for the transportation route.
• The overlay ordinance allows the Board of Adjustment to retain or appoint third-party experts.
• A total of ten copies of the complete application must be submitted to the Dunn County zoning office. Five of the copies are for each of the PR&D committee members, one is for the corporation counsel, one is for the zoning office, and three are for the media and the public. The ordinance also requires one digital copy to be supplied to the zoning office so additional copies can be made or the application can be e-mailed to those who request it.
• The overlay ordinance sets the hours of operation from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday during Daylight Saving Time and from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Standard time; Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; no hours on Sundays or holidays. These are maximum hours of operation. The Board of Adjustment can reduce the hours of operation.
Vista Sand is proposing to operate the transloading facility 24 hours per day, six days per week because, Vista representatives said, the railroad requires unit trains to be loaded and out of the facility within 24 hours.
PR&D committee members said that the time-frame for when the unit trains leave the facility would have to be a business decision worked out between the railroad and Vista based on the hours of operation set in the mining overlay district ordinance or the hours of operation as determined by the Board of Adjustment.