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Commissions develop recommendations for city

Based on what two city commissions are recommending, Red Wing could soon have some very strong regulations in place for silica sand mines.

The Planning and Sustainability commissions have been holding joint meetings for months in order to develop a draft report of recommendations to the City Council on how silica sand mining should be controlled. At the end of June they organized a public hearing to consider citizen input.

Public comment overwhelmingly encouraged an outright prohibition of silica sand mining, but the commissions decided not to take that approach when they finalized their draft report at a meeting Tuesday night.

"Instead what they're basically saying is the combination of the other recommendations would severely limit any future mining operations in Red Wing and would place public safety types of regulation on processing plants and transportation terminals," planning director Brian Peterson explained.

An entire section in the report is dedicated to alternative regulatory approaches that can be taken rather than using just the city's exiting regulatory framework.

"Basically they're recommending many of the alternatives in the draft report," Peterson said.

Those include limiting silica sand mining to only the agriculture and general industrial zoning districts, prohibiting mining in open space priority areas and developing special provisions for barge and rail terminals used to ship silica sand.

Peterson said the recommendations were based heavily around public safety, health concerns and transportation issues.

The final draft of the report will be on the city's website by Monday, he added.

At the City Council's meeting on Aug. 13 the draft report will be presented, "so we can kind of get the City Council up to speed on what it's about," Peterson explained.

The Planning and Sustainability commissions will meet Aug. 21 to vote to officially adopt the draft they developed, and the City Council will be asked to take official action on Aug. 27.

"If the council adopts the report ... then there would be new zoning regulations coming forward in September," Peterson said. "Whatever we are going to put in place we need to have put in place by Oct. 28."