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Renville Co. zoning board rejects appeal over gravel pit

OLIVIA -- Renville County's Board of Adjustment and Appeals rejected an appeal by Duininck Companies of Prinsburg and ordered it to meet the conditions of a permit for a gravel pit it operates in Beaver Falls Township.

The gravel mining operation has long been a point of contention between the company and neighboring property owner Doug Tersteeg, whose home is set amidst one of the county's last remaining natural oak savannahs.

The Board of Adjustment ordered the company on Thursday to correct five violations.

The corrections include moving two large stockpiles of gravel that are within 500 feet of the Tersteeg residence; seeding a pigweed-infested berm with a grass and wildflower mix and improving the berm's slope; developing a separate berm to prevent runoff; and reclaiming an area on the south side of the pit where mining occurred within the 50-foot setback from another property.

Due to the lateness of the season, the board gave the company until June 15 to correct the violations. The county's zoning staff had set a Nov. 30 deadline for Duininck Companies to take corrective action and be in accordance with terms of a 2006 conditional use permit for the site.

Jason Ver Steeg, engineer with Duininck Companies, said the company acknowledged the violations but told members of the Board of Adjustment that the violations occurred as the result of mistakes. He said a company supervisor at the site had stepped off and estimated the distance from the property owned by Doug Tersteeg when deciding where to stockpile gravel.

County zoning staff had determined that the stockpiles were 325 feet and 305 feet from the Tersteeg residence, not the required 500 feet.

Ver Steeg also acknowledged that mining operations had occurred within the 50-foot setback to the south property line owned by Richard Sheffler. The company will reclaim the area and develop a three-to-one slope along the property line, he said.

The company has ceased mining operations at the pit for the season.

Ver Steeg asked the zoning board if it could remove the stockpiles of gravel through the sale of the material over time, with a pledge that no mining would occur at the site until the stockpiles are depleted. The company has plans to continue mining at the site in the future; that work will proceed to the east and north of the Tersteeg property line.

The mining site is owned by George Plass. The county had rejected a request by Plass to allow mining at the site in 1985 after Tersteeg objected. Tersteeg claimed that the mining activity would harm the value of his property along Beaver Creek.

The county issued a permit in 2000 to allow mining operations there and in 2006 issued the current permit. It includes 28 conditions, the most ever imposed on a gravel mining operation in the county.

Tersteeg told the Board of Adjustment that he appreciated the county's efforts to enforce the conditions of the permit. He said that had he been contacted, he would have assisted the company in marking the property line so that the setback distance could be accurately ascertained.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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