Rural boards can gain controlGoodhue County townships learned at their annual meeting Saturday that they have some power in controlling potential silica sand mines.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
Goodhue County townships learned at their annual meeting Saturday that they have some power in controlling potential silica sand mines.
The county has a moratorium on sand mining that extends into August, but concerned citizens have been trying to find out whether the townships that would be affected have any say in the matter.
Minnesota Association of Townships agency director and general counsel Eric Hedtke said that townships have the authority to make planning and zoning decisions, but under certain conditions.
“You can be more restrictive than the county, but you can’t be less restrictive,” Hedtke explained, adding that townships can’t be inconsistent with the county either.
Townships also can require companies to go through their own permitting process in addition to the county’s.
Attorney Sarah Schwarzhoff with Couri & Ruppe, P.L.L.P., in St. Michael, encouraged people at the meeting to keep in mind that there is an alternative to issuing conditional-use permits.
Exactly like CUPs in every way but one, interim-use permits have the ability to expire.
“You can set it up however you want and what it does is it just gives you that control,” Schwarzhoff said.
A permit that expires after a year or another length of time gives the town board a chance to look at the operation again and consider what do to next — something that isn’t as easily done with CUPs.
“If you give them a conditional-use permit they can use that as a gravel pit forever,” Schwarzhoff said. “Unless they violate a condition, you’re stuck.”
Before even issuing a permit, townships have the authority to put a moratorium in place, Hedtke said. Still, he doesn’t recommend they immediately jump to that solution.
“The county’s got a moratorium. Should the townships get a moratorium now?” Hedtke questioned. “I don’t think so. There’s no reason for it.”
There is currently a bill at the Capitol that could change moratorium law if it gets passed. The bill states that a moratorium would not affect any applicant who submitted an application prior to the introduction of the moratorium.
No silica sand mining company has filed a permit with Goodhue County.