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Town of Colfax to explore intergovernmental cooperation for sand mines

By LeAnn R. Ralph

TOWN OF COLFAX — Based on a discussion at the Dunn County Planning, Resources and Development committee, the Colfax Town Board has agreed to explore intergovernmental cooperation with the Town of Howard for regulating sand mines.

The Colfax Town Board discussed the possibility of intergovernmental cooperation at the May 14 regular town board meeting.

The issue of intergovernmental cooperation to protect property owners on the Colfax/Howard town line in the event that a 2,000 acre sand mine is developed in the Town of Howard came before the PR&D committee the day before.

Although the Town of Howard in Chippewa County has a nonmetallic mining ordinance that establishes an 800-foot setback for a residence from the boundary of a property involved in nonmetallic mining, the setback would not apply to properties next door in the Town of Colfax.

Gary Bjork, a supervisor on the Colfax Town Board, a member of the Dunn County Board and a member of the PR&D committee, suggested a moratorium on nonmetallic mining to buy some time for the Town of Colfax to adopt a nonmetallic mining ordinance.

Other town board members, and some of the dozen or so audience members, were not sure that a moratorium would be effective since the sand mine under discussion would be in Chippewa County and also since Dunn County already has a mining overlay zoning district in place.

To date, based on anecdotal evidence from neighbors and from property owners in the Town of Howard who have been approached, prospectors have been attempting to convince property owners to sign leases for their land.

According to Dan Masterpole, Chippewa County land conservation, no application has been received yet for a mine reclamation permit.

The Howard Town Board requires that any company wishing to develop a sand mine already has a reclamation plan in place before approaching the town board.

“I think with all of this going on east of our line, now would be a good time to do a moratorium… our planning commission could look at (ordinances from) Howard, Otter Creek and the overlay for Dunn County,” Bjork said.

Checking into the ordinances and the overlay district would determine how much protection is in place for the Town of Colfax, he said.

The prospectors “want it to be one of the biggest ones around. Up to 2,000 acres. The guy that’s leasing it is not the mine owner. He is just the middle man,” Bjork said.

Gary Klukas, chair of the Town of Colfax, said he would want to check with an attorney about an intergovernmental agreement.

Bob Colson, Dunn County planner, will be at the Town of Colfax Plan Commission meeting in two weeks to continue reviewing the county’s new comprehensive zoning code.

Members of the Colfax Town Board agreed that a plan commission agenda item should involve asking Colson about nonmetallic mining ordinances, the county’s overlay district and the possibility of an intergovernmental agreement with Howard.

“If we can’t gain more by (having an ordinance or a moratorium), then there’s no sense in having one, but how will we know until we investigate?” Bjork asked.

Town board members agreed that after the plan commission meeting, they would have a better idea of what to put on the agenda for the next town board meeting in June.