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Howard Town Board: ‘I heard you bought a house.’

By LeAnn R. Ralph

TOWN OF HOWARD — In spite of their best efforts, members of the Howard Town Board were not able to find out much information about a proposed 2,000 acre sand mine in the Town of Howard.

“I heard you bought a house,” said Vernon Schindler, chair of the Town of Howard, at the Town Board’s June 3 meeting.

Schindler was speaking to Paul van Eijl, the land acquisitions manager for Northern Sands.

Over the past few months, people living in the Town of Howard and in the Town of Colfax have become increasingly concerned about the talk they have been hearing of a proposed 2,000 acre sand mine to include a processing plant, rail loading facility, and the use of conveyors to move the sand.

In response to Schindler’s question about buying a house, van Eijl said he needed a reclamation plan approved by Chippewa County, that he had a deadline for purchasing property and that he needed to meet the deadline.

Town board supervisor Tom Zwiefelhofer said he had received an e-mail from van Eijl stating that any mining agreement with the Town of Howard would be applicable to those property owners in the Town of Colfax.

Zwiefelhofer asked if he could share the e-mail with several residents attending the meeting who lived in the Town of Colfax, and van Eijl said that he could.

The e-mail was dated May 22.

Town of Colfax residents are concerned that mining activity could take place right across the road from their homes but that none of the setbacks established in the Town of Howard would apply to the Town of Colfax.

Van Eijl told the Howard Town Board that additional testing of the sand deposits would be done that week.

He also told the town board he would be closing on one house in a month.

“Are some of the offers (to purchase) contingent on permits?” Zwiefelhofer asked.

“Yes,” van Eijl said.

“Are all of the offers (to purchase) contingent on permits?” Zwiefelhofer asked.

“No,” van Eijl said, adding that he had offered buyouts to properties with no sand value.

Five or six 

Zwiefelhofer said he had talked to five or six different people that van Eijl had contacted about offering to purchase their property.

At least some of them thought van Eijl was prepared to write out a check immediately for their property. All of them found out that the offer to purchase was contingent upon Northern Sands receiving the necessary permits to operate a sand mine, and all five or six backed out, he said.

The offers to purchase are contingent upon permits, although there are one or two exceptions, van Eijl said, noting that he would not close on a house if there were no permits for the sand mine.

Northern Sands has not yet applied to Chippewa County for a reclamation permit.

Obtaining a permit requires submitting a detailed reclamation plan and holding a public hearing on the plan.

Zwiefelhofer told the other town board members he had been invited to attend the Colfax Town Board meeting June 11 to talk about the possibility of an intergovernmental agreement.

Schindler and the other town supervisor, Dennis Dvoracek, said they would not object to considering an intergovernmental agreement with the Town of Colfax.

“Just as long as it doesn’t cost the Town of Howard anything,” Schindler said.