By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — Marking a change in the way ordinances are passed, the Dunn County Board has accepted the proposed nonmetallic mining overlay district for a first reading.
County ordinances will now be approved through a first and second reading procedure, said Scott Cox, Dunn County corporation counsel, at the Dunn County Board’s October 17 meeting.
Ordinances could be approved on a first reading, but it would require a two-thirds vote of the county board to suspend the rules, and the motion to suspend the rules is not debatable, Cox said.
During a first reading, the county board can ask questions but cannot take any action on the proposed ordinance unless the rules are suspended, he said.
Since April, the Dunn County Planning, Resources and Development Committee has held 13 meetings and two public forums about the proposed nonmetallic mining overlay district, said Robert Walter, county board supervisor from Menomonie and chair of the PR&D committee.
In that time, the PR&D committee also has received two reams of paper containing public comments on the proposed ordinance, he said.
Gary Seipel, county board supervisor from Eau Galle, wondered if the sand mine industry had been involved in developing the ordinance.
Perhaps with the exception of one or two, Candy Anderson, a representative for Milestone Materials/Mathy Construction, has attended the meetings about the overlay district, Walter said.
Anderson has been “very helpful” in providing information about the perspective of the construction aggregate industry, he said.
Representatives for Vista Sand did not attend any of the meetings devoted to the ordinance until the public hearing and then complained that they had no opportunity to participate, Walter said.
Mining companies had “at least 15 opportunities to participate and for whatever reason, chose not to,” he said.
During the public hearing on the rezone request for the loading facility along U.S. Highway 12 west of Menomonie, Walter recalled that a representative for Vista Sand said the company was not interested in the overlay district because the facility might be used to ship other commodities.
Calvin Christianson, county board supervisor from Menomonie, wondered about allowing frac sand mines in areas zoned Agricultural 3 where there could be rural subdivisions.
The mining overlay district would apply to Agricultural 2 and 3 and to Industrial.
Industrial mining is not allowed in Exclusive Agriculture districts.
The major goal of the county’s comprehensive plan is to preserve farmland, Walter said.
The Grant Town Board asked that the overlay not be allowed in A1 because mining would consume farmland, he said.
The Town of Grant is zoned Exclusive Agriculture.
As for A3, pockets of residential areas are located in rural areas throughout the county. Over the 36-square-miles of a township, mining could be allowed in an A3 zone without being detrimental to the residential areas, Walter said.
The setbacks in the overlay district stipulate that industrial mines cannot be located within a half mile of an existing residence, he said.
Seipel also wondered if the county’s application process for industrial nonmetallic mines was too open ended.
Cox said that over the years, he has advised many Boards of Adjustments, and it is not unusual for a board to ask for more information.
On the other hand, due process and fair play must be followed, so another public hearing and additional public comment would be required, he said.
“Sunsets” on application procedures have recently been in the news, Walter said.
A sunset provision means that if an application is not approved within a certain number of days, approval would be automatic.
Some bureaucracies have used opened ended application procedures to delay approval, Walter said.
The Board of Adjustment members are local residents; they are not bureaucrats and would have no interest in delaying an application for the sake of delay, he said.
A court of law could also rule that the BOA had abused its discretion, Walter noted.
Christianson noted that some townships have wondered about veto power over the Board of Adjustment
State law does not provide for veto power over the BOA, Walter said.
The county’s proposed ordinance does, however, give veto power to the townships for the overlay district, he said.
In other words, a town board can veto an overlay district approved by the county.
Donald Krause, county board supervisor from New Auburn, wondered about the county passing a mine-licensing ordinance.
Counties do not have the legal authority to grant licenses, Walter noted.
The proposed overlay ordinance creates a zoning district, and counties do have zoning authority, he said.
The PR&D committee planned to meet October 22 to further discuss the proposed ordinance.
Since the November meeting is devoted to the county budget, discussing the proposed ordinance beforehand might serve to avoid a county board meeting that goes until 2 a.m., Walter said.
The proposed mining overlay district ordinance is expected to be on the Dunn County Board agenda for a second reading and approval at the November 13 meeting at 7 p.m.