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Red Wing City Council blocks mining

The Red Wing City Council adopted changes to its zoning ordinance Monday that will put more stringent controls on silica sand mines that come into the city.

City Council members reviewed the ordinance amendments Sept. 24, and waited until a special meeting Monday to adopt them.

Many of the changes were originally developed by the Red Wing Sustainability and Planning commissions, which joined together to study the effects of silica sand mines last October when the city adopted a one-year moratorium.

Per the commissions' recommendations, the ordinance now includes many specific requirements for silica sand operations, such as mandatory air quality reports, dust mitigation plans and transportation impact studies. While each of those will give the city strong control over silica sand mines, two other pieces of the ordinance will prevent the mines completely.

One is based on the Open Space Preservation Plan the city adopted in 2008. By establishing an open space preservation overlay district, all mining and on-site processing plants are prohibited in those protected locations.

"This is a major part of the ordinance amendment," Planning Director Brian Peterson said.

After eliminating the open space priority areas, there isn't an extensive amount of the city remaining for potential mines, Peterson noted.

"Much of the rest you can't mine in because it's not zoned correctly," he explained, adding that the ordinance now says silica sand mining will only be permitted in the agricultural zoning district and off-site processing plants will only be allowed in the I-2 zoning district.

While the ordinance can greatly limit the chances of silica sand mines from being developed within city limits, it can't prevent trucks hauling silica sand from traveling through the community on a regular basis.

Council member Peggy Rehder made sure to clarify that the city only has so much authority in terms of transportation guidelines. She said she's run into many local residents who are still confused about the city's control -- or lack thereof -- over area roads.

"I think there are people out there who think we are going to be able to impose more limitations than we actually can," Rehder said.

The City Council only has jurisdiction over Red Wing streets, just as state highways like Highway 61 are in the hands of the Minnesota Department of Transportation and county roads are under the control of Goodhue County.

"That's why it's so important to work with our county and our townships," Peterson said.

Although the zoning ordinance changes have been officially adopted by the City Council, they don't become effective until 14 days after being published in the Republican Eagle. Red Wing's moratorium on silica sand mining expires Oct. 28.