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City gets public input on sand report

For the past several weeks, members of both the Red Wing Advisory Planning and Sustainability commissions have been developing a draft report to eventually show City Council members the nitty-gritty details of silica sand mining.

A majority of the sections in the draft are complete for now, but one set aside specifically for recommendations remains blank.

"We wanted to get to this point, get some feedback from the public, and then our two commissions will work on recommendations," Red Wing Planning Director Brian Peterson explained.

During a public hearing at a joint meeting of the Advisory Planning and Sustainability commissions Tuesday night, a handful of community members stood up to share their opinions on the draft report and suggest ideas that could be explored further.

Red Wing resident Winston Kahler said he is most bothered by the transporting of sand and the idea of heavy truck traffic frequently making its way through the town he calls home.

"The commodity that is being mined has to get somewhere in order to be useful," Kahler said. But he doesn't think any piece of the silica sand mining process is appropriate for Red Wing.

"I think it's somewhat comparable to raising tigers within city limits," Kahler added. "It's just not something that you want to do within the boundaries of a town."

"Do we want to invite a guest into our home that may not be the politest of guests?" he asked.

Windsor Permian, the company drilling test wells on land in Hay Creek, has not brought forth any plans to develop mines in Red Wing. Still, city staff developed a draft thoroughly explaining mining details so the City Council can make an informed decision about its zoning ordinance when its mining moratorium expires Oct. 29 -- especially since silica sand mines are popping up left and right in nearby areas.

"It really hit Wisconsin a lot bigger and earlier than it has Minnesota," Peterson said.

Having mines in the surrounding communities gave Advisory Planning and Sustainability commissions members easy opportunities to study existing operations while putting together the draft report.

Hay Creek resident Katie Bakke asked at the meeting whether looking at other mines had proved there was an economic benefit to be had for communities housing mining operations.

"I don't think there's any doubt that these operations are employing some people," Peterson answered. "It has more to do with does it outweigh some of the negative impacts?"

Several citizens think it doesn't.

One of them -- Kathleen Bibus -- said she knows people that had been considering buying homes in Frontenac and Hay Creek, but decided against them because of the potential of a sand operation coming to the area in the future.

"It's already impacting people not moving here," Bibus said.

Section two of the draft report is devoted entirely to addressing potential impacts, while other sections offer alternative ways to regulate mines, guidance on a comprehensive plan and information about existing rules and permits.

"Suffice it to say, there's a whole host of state and federal requirements in place," Peterson said. "Whatever the city does will need to fit within that framework."