Council delays action on Vista Sand agreement

GLENWOOD CITY — The city council tabled action on the pre-annexation agreement with Vista Sand for up to thirty days. This action follows a Public Hearing Monday evening, March 10 as part of the council regular monthly meeting.

More than 40 people filled the community center for the council meeting.

 The council did, however, approve two other items related to the sand mine issue including moving to annex city owned land in the Town of Glenwood that is the site of the city’s wastewater treatment facility. They also approved a change in the city’s zoning ordinance.

Terry Dunst, the city attorney explained to the council that the city owned land where the treatment facility is located is in the Town of Glenwood and that the city would need to take action to annex that land before the city could move ahead with annexing the Teigen-Crosby property, the proposed mine site. Dunst told the council that the land had to be “contiguous” to the city. If that land was not annexed, then the mine site property would be an island and Dunst explained that would not be allowed.

The council voted five to one to authorize the mayor to petition the council to annex the city owned property, with council person Crystal voting no.

On a four-to-two vote the council approved an ordinance change. At present any land that is annexed into the city, is zoned residential. The change would allow the zoning district to be set at the time of annexation. Council members voting no on this zoning change was Booth and Ben DeGross.

After the public hearing, Mayor John Larson explained that the council needed to address three items regarding the mining issue. Two of them were the zoning issue and treatment facility land. But the third item is was what took some time and much discussion to come to an agreement.

During the Public Hearing, the council heard from Tammy Wittmer, Jeanne Jeske, Gloria Walz, Charlotte Stout, Tim Emholtz, and several others including Joe McKey, a Vista Sand representative.

Emholtz, Superintendent of Glenwood City Schools presented two items to the council. One was the School Board Statement on Industrial Development and the other was a personal letter of his. In that letter, Emholtz stated, “the District has been attempting to negotiate terms of an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with Vista that would provide particular protection to the District and its students and staff, should a mining project be proposed, approved and implemented. The District asked Vista, last fall, to share information that may result in discussions with the city. Notwithstanding this fact, the draft Pre-Annexation Agreement was provided to the District and its legal counsel only last week.”

Emholtz pointed out several items that he thought needed to be address by both the school and the city.

Tammy Wittmer addressed  the council about the hazards that could affect not only the students in the school, but the general population if a sand mine was permitted to operate at the proposed site. She pointed out truck traffic, noise, health concerns from the sand and light pollution. Her sentiment was echoed by Jeanne Jeske. Gloria Walz spoke about Glenwood City being a bedroom community and people would be moving. “People left here and then they are moving back because of the community we have,” she told the council.

Charlotte Stout, who is a school board member addressed the council with several items regarding the proposed mine. “This is not a you vs. us. This is our town and everyone’s town. We all have an investment and we all take a risk as we move forward. I understand your position is to represent the town.”

All those that spoke asked the council to delay their approval of the pre-annexation agreement with Vista Sand which would allow more discussion with the three parties, School, City and Vista Sand.

Joe McKey of Vista Sand addressed the meeting about the proposed pre-annexation agreement. “We spent well over a year with the council discussing all the various concerns. We appreciate the opportunity to be part of that process, we grateful for it and we are very proud of the document that has been created. We hope that you will decide to move forward with that process.”

Council member Nancy Hover said that she appreciates the MOU and questioned, “How important is it for the city to be responsible for the school and the school to be responsible for the city? We are two separate identities and it would be great to work together, but the truth is, we are not responsible for the school’s action. Not that I do not want to work with you (school) but are we responsible for each other?”

Dunst informed the council that any MOU wording could be made part of the pre-annexation agreement.

After much discussion among council members, member Crystal Booth moved to table any action on the agreement and re-visit it within thirty days. That motion passed the council with all members voting yes.